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New British Airways developments unveiled at the Gold Guest List lunch

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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.

British Airways Club World main course

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 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!

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Comments (84)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • James says:

    At least this shows that the barrage of negative comments about the ‘enhancements’ is being taken seriously down at BA HQ.

    • Matt says:

      Lip service only I’m sure…

      • Alan says:

        Indeed. Disappointing re. domestic RFS – probably in no doubt due to LHR fees but should have still offered it to some extent on European trips.

    • Stripy says:

      Based on the article I’d say that BA aren’t “taking the negative comments seriously”. They acknowledge that pax are up in arms over their “enhancements” but they also say that they’re not going to go back on them. Comments mean nothing to BA (or most airlines for that matter), it’s only when pax start voting with their feet that they may finally reconsider some of their business choices.

  • Hsmall says:

    I am GGL of three years’ standing and never get any lunch invites…

    • flibbly says:

      Similar for me, but I put it down to the fact that I initially qualified by doing a lot of premium economy flights (so not the “right sort”), and then since my work travel policy improved to be for J over 6hrs, the majority of my TPs have come from other OW airlines.

    • RICO says:

      Get out more.

  • Paul says:

    There is nothing in this article that would make me buy club world either today or on the foreseeable future. £20million on food in club won’t change cramp world sufficiently and I still not have any more space. Nor will it improve the attitude of many crew. AA CX and QR now so far ahead in this game. The real problem is BAs monopoly at LHR and lack of competition. This needs to change otherwise BA will continue to serve up slop in cramped conditions and with little regard for customers

    • Calchas says:

      There’s plenty of competition if you don’t insist on sticking to one alliance

  • Andy says:

    And so the story of gradual decline continues together with the seeping away of any loyalty for he brand. I flew weekly short haul from 2000 to 2006 and you really felt looked after…it was worth pushing to fly BA. How things have changed! I fly long haul mostly now and use Qantas quite a lot and often say to people that Qantas service has kept the standards that BA had 10 years ago but are now letting slip away. How disappointing that BA seems to aspire to reach the standards of Ryanair!

    • ankomonkey says:

      I agree here. Have just flown Premium Economy in Qantas. The food, wine and service were all better than BA CW in my experience. The seat is the only part BA CW would beat Qantas PEc for me. And the Emirates Dubai lounge – although still impossible to use the showers due to queuing – reminds me how bad the BA LHR lounges are.

      • CV3V says:

        I remember a few years ago doing my first (and only) long haul flight with BA in economy and having to walk through the various cabins to reach it. I was quite confused at the time as I couldn’t work out which one was business class as ‘Club World’ didn’t look like any business class product I could relate to, so thought it PE, until I then walked through PE.

      • Rob says:

        If you are on concourse A, it is effectively a private terminal for business class passengers (and you if you had BA status but were in PE).

        • ankomonkey says:

          Indeed, Dubai concourse A. And indeed again, I’m a BA Silver regular, mainly from flying PE on BA for work.

    • Gerard says:

      I remember flying BA in mid 2000s and going to Manchester you used to get a hot panini, quickly warmed up and given out. Now you are offered a little packet of nuts or biscuits. Even on flights to Europe it is now just a sandwich- worse than domestic catering 10 years ago.

      • Anthony Dunn says:

        But have you compared the real terms (rather than cash terms) cost of your ticket now and a decade ago? I dare say that you are paying less – and getting less as a result. Margins in civil aviation are wafer thin and if people expect, indeed insist on paying less, then they have to expect airlines to respond. Personally, if I am flying in the Economy section, then I take my own grub so that I know I have something that I will like. That is no big deal to me.

  • Scott says:

    I can understand the financial issues with RFS, but difficult to see where they come in for free seat allocation on HBO fares – it can hardly cost them to offer this online, and I can’t imagine huge numbers of people will be coming forward to pay for a domestic seat allocation. At the very least GCH should expect their “seat preferences” to be honoured on this sort of fare!!

  • Metatone says:

    I’m confused – so the new economy tix would prevent priority boarding/lounge access even if you have status?

    • Save East Coast Rewards says:

      bmi tried a zero frills economy ticket and it was a disaster. It was often only a couple of quid cheaper than the regular ticket and caused disappointment and anger when people got to the lounge and found they weren’t able to get in.

    • Raffles says:

      Yes. It will have no benefits at all and status benefits will not be honoured.

      • Twiddly Thumbs says:

        Even if you had a CCR Card?

      • Mark says:

        The problem I see with this is that it effectively means status pax have to pay a premium to enjoy the status privileges they have earnt. Non-status passengers may as well go for the cheaper ticket anyway.

        That must be a sure-fire way to upset your frequent flyers, especially if they are forced into those fares by a company cheapest deal only policy.

        In that case why would those people go out of their way to fly BA? Indeed it may well mean they go out of their way not to.

        • Rob says:

          They are already paying a premium for seat allocation and taking a bag.

    • Roger Wilco says:

      Big question is other OW elites – BA can deny their own customers whatever it deems fit, but how would it go down with AA or any other OW partner?

  • @alastairtravel says:

    Regarding the new proposed ‘no benefits’ economy tickets from a Travel Management Company perspective these would need to be available in the GDS for corporates.

    Both the corporate and the TMC would expect this. Corporates want all fares available through the one channel, plus there is nothing worse from a TMC perspective to not be able to book certain fares and driving traffic to

    Additionally some of the GDS have complete content agreements with BA whereby they are guaranteed access to all their published fares.

    • Calchas says:

      Raffles is suggesting these fares be not published

      • Tim says:

        I would imagine BA have a full content agreement with the GDS’s. Anything that is available on has to be available on the GDSs

        • AlastairD says:

          Yes this is correct Tim. This is certainly the case with Amadeus – I couldn’t comment in detail regarding the others.

      • Blenz101 says:

        It was only Raffles opinion that these should not be made available via the GDS’s, there is no reason in reality BA would have any reason to hold them back.

        The imminent opening of a third party lounge at T5 will soften the blow for some business users forced to use these tickets.

  • Tom C says:

    It’s the fact that legroom is now 30″ on short-haul flights in J that has annoyed me the most with BA’s changes in the last 12 months. It’s the only reason I’m prepared to pay more, as I have such long legs and it’s immensely uncomfortable. I’m flying to Athens next month and if it’s as uncomfortable as I imagine then I’ll never fly BA J short-haul again.

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