One of the participants at the Gold Guest List lunch in London last week, held for British Airways most valued customers, sent me over a summary of the speech that was given. It has some interesting insights which are generally positive.
(Note that this lunch was not held under Chatham House rules. Items discussed at these lunches usually find their way onto various internet forums so I am happy to repeat them. If you saw my article on Saturday you will see that I did not publish a certain detail because it was not part of the main presentation but only mentioned separately to a smaller group.)
The good news:
A private check-in lane with DIRECT access to Galleries First is to be built at Heathrow for Gold, oneworld Emerald and First Class passengers. More details in my article on Saturday.
Long-haul business class is to see catering spend increased by £20 million per year. Given the shocking state of Club World catering at the moment – my last BA main course is pictured below – this is well overdue. I would say that BA needs to funnel some of this money into crockery and presentation. It is difficult to feel much love for a meal served like the one below.
Wi-Fi is coming to short-haul with Intelsat working on a package. Long-haul is not on the agenda due to cost and implementation issues. To be fair, it does seem tricky to retrofit Wi-Fi and you usually only see it on new aircraft.
There is an intention to improve cleanliness onboard. No idea how!
The lounges at Heathrow are to be fully refurbished. No timescale was given.
There be a substantial increase in policing what is taken onboard by ‘hand baggage only’ customers. BA accepts that the current hand baggage and priority boarding system on short-haul is not fit for purpose, partly due to increased levels of cabin baggage. Gold and Gold Guest List members may be allowed to board first so they can take the overhead space.
The bad news:
The new Club World washbags (‘pathetic’ was the description used by my source) are to stay. That said, many airlines including Emirates have done away with amenity kits entirely on day flights.
BA admits that the feedback from customers about legroom with the new short-haul seating has been disastrous. There are no plans to remove a row of seats to improve business class legroom, however.
The decision to scrap free domestic Reward Flight Saver redemptions was decided on financial grounds despite knowing it would alienate many customers and will not be reversed.
The decision to stop free seat allocation on Hand Baggage Only fares was decided on the same financial grounds. BA has received substantial negative feedback – not surprising when you can spend well over £500 on a Hand Baggage Only fully-flexible ticket and still find that you cannot choose a seat whatever your status – but no change is planned.
There are plans to introduce an ‘even fewer frills’ economy ticket which will probably exclude lounge access and all other benefits such as Priority Boarding. I am actually OK with this concept but it needs to kept out of the GDS systems which corporate customers use – otherwise business travellers who are obliged to book the cheapest fare will be forced to use it. Have these fares on ba.com by all means but do not force them on business travellers who have no alternative. Avios points would probably remain, oddly, because it would mean another change to the scheme.
That is about it. If you want to take part in these lunches yourself, you only need to earn 5,000 tier points in a single membership year and you will (possibly) be invited along!