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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 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!


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Comments (84)

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

  • Mark says:

    It should be possible to come up with a compromise arrangement for RFS domestic flights such as charging a reduced rate for the domestic flight. I think part of the problem was that stopovers were allowed (giving London based customers a free domestic return flight at another time).

    With the current RFS arrangements there is much less reason for people “in the regions” to collect Avios.

    • grex9101 says:

      I agree. Living in Scotland, I could bear the thought of a “via Heathrow” if it meant the connecting flight was included. Now the costs have essentially doubled, my Amex points will be spent with another carrier. I’ll probably never (need to) fly with BA again.

    • Mick says:

      Here here !!!!

  • Mike says:

    I few F from LAX to LHR last week, BA shares the Qantas F lounge there which puts the concord room to shame. It’s light, airy, loads of seating, isn’t furnished like my grandparents living room and has excellent table service (steak and champagne, cooked within view and provided by very attentive staff). BA could really do with a lounge refresh in LHR…

  • British Airways Wants to Take Away Lounge Access and Priority Boarding from Elites on the Lowest Fares - View from the Wing says:

    […] According to Head for Points British Airways plans to introduce fares that exclude lounge access and priority boarding for elites. […]

  • Kinkell says:

    Well I’m never likely to achieve Gold Status, I struggle to get anywhere near 500 TPs never mind 5k. However, have made maximum use of 2. 241s flying in F to JNB and EZE plus 2 CE trips to Spain and Italy. Oh, and we live in the very north of the UK so the connecting RFS has been great, even if it did mean several hours drive to either Aberdeen or Edinburgh first. ( BA gave up the Inverness link a few years ago)
    So, very happy with all my trips pre the April change.

  • Fenny says:

    Oh well. I’ll burn off my Avios on RFS and stick with Virgin for long haul. I’m sure BA will weep a single tear at my absence. It seems the entire company is lowering itself to the level of the IT offerings.

  • Miles Down Under says:

    Down under, Air New Zealand for a period did not allow elites to preselect seats in the ‘premium’ section of the economy cabin (forward seats with extra legroom) when flying on Hand Baggage Only fares. This was ultimately reversed when they saw the plummeting levels of elite frequent flyer satisfaction. It will be interesting to see if British Airways can stay the course.

  • TrollBasher says:

    “We’ve heard all the barrage of negative feedback, but it’s full speed ahead chaps!”

    If BA were an ocean liner….

    • Mark says:

      I think conflicting business drivers and customer expectations are a big part of the challenge here.

      On the one hand the short haul services provide a vital feeder into the long haul network. That is becoming increasingly tough, particularly to Asian, Indian Ocean and African destinations where the Middle East carriers are offering very competitive direct or long haul – long haul connections from both the UK regions and many European cities.

      On the other hand they are having to compete with the LCCs to fill the majority of the seats and consequently have to offer the no frills fares that will appear on the comparison flights, minimise costs on those fares particularly, charge for extras where possible and cram in maximum seats.

      The compromise is inevitably far from perfect and driven by what BA management thinks will yield the best long term financial results rather than short term criticism. Whether or not they have it right of course is another matter – only time will tell.

  • TechInScotland says:

    I have been a very loyal BA flyer for years. Mostly SCH, latterly GCH. Already moving to EZ for domestics due to HBO hassle (why should I have to queue as GCH just to get locker space – and now I don’t even get a decent seat), if BA stop lounge access on cheapest flights there is no point choosing to fly with them for me.

    Long Haul – we always fly WT+, Club or First. The experience is good, sometimes great. The bonus is status which makes the slog of weekly flying a reasonable experience.

    Short Haul – got status so default to BA. Recently, though, the HBO debacle means Easyjet are getting a look in and, frankly, they are at least as good as BA and Easyjet Plus and a Priority Pass provides the reuqired status benefits – heck I don’t even have to earn them! Also, Easyjet are regularly half the price of BA and their morning EDI sevice usually arrives at a domestic gate.

    My new long haul strategy – avoid BA, what’s the point, they are taking the piss. So many better 2 hop options ex-EDI to most places in the world on better carriers in premium cabins at lower price. Their value proposition has disappeared for me – the only real benefit was the lounge access, fast-track security and boarding (lol LHR) and my choice of seat as a thank you for spending a fortune on the premium product. Once I start flying the other airlines more I will find my new comfort zone and my (misplaced) loyalty will be theirs.

    Full disclaimer – I have also sold all my BA shares – this is their Tesco/Ratners moment, they don’t know it yet and when they do it will be too late – they took me for granted and I’m off, so presumably they are taking others for granted and they wlll be off too.

    • TechInScotland says:

      I meant morning EDI-LGW serivce arrives at domestic gate

    • CV says:

      Completely agree with comments, especially for flights from EDI where these is a great No.1 Traveller lounge with a decent food offering. Easyjet speedy boarding gives fast track at security and priority boarding. Easyjet flights seem to always be on time, when i land into LHR or waiting to board and fly back out i expect it to be delayed, and usually it is. Long haul from EDI there are a host of options all with a better cabin than BA, likewise there is Emirates from GLA and a recently constructed Emirates lounge in GLA.

      BA’s priority boarding at LHR doesn’t work once it turns out you are being bussed to the plane which has occurred a few times, the comical part of it is watching others with status force their way to the from of the queue. It just isn’t worth the hassle and cost.

      • 50pounder says:

        Flying back today to LGW from Malta in CE. The new seating is a disgrace. Experienced it for the first time last week going out to Malta. Might as well be on Ryanair at a tenth of the price. BA will have to discount its long haul connecting flights via LON to persuade anyone to put up these cramped conditions when paying for a long haul F or CW ticket.

        I checked Malta to EZE in CW on BA.com 2400 Euros. Direct LHR to EZE £3400! Nearly half price from Malta. I wonder why?

        If BA did not have a slot monopoly from LHR they would have been bust long ago. A just think of those fifty 380 aircraft arriving with Emirates over the next few years.
        I do not see BA flying anywhere in Asia or Australasia in 10 years time. Just abusing its monopoly over the pond until the silly politicians can sort out a proper airport in the SE removing BA’s monopoly on LHR slots.

        • Mark says:

          As anyone who follows this blog closely will know, fares from elsewhere in Europe are very often much cheaper than from London, even where the former involves a connection to the same flight. That’s partly down to government taxes but mainly down to what the airlines can get away with charging.

          BA is certainly not alone in having that kind of price differential and it has absolutely nothing to do with the new short haul seating.

          I also doubt you’ll really find many, if any cases of Ryanair charging a tenth of the BA price (or anything like it) for the same routes, date, notice and similar flight times. The days of stupidly low (e.g. €1) fare offers are long gone and the need to compete with the LCCs is one of the main factors driving the seat pitch reduction.

          • CV3V says:

            The stupidly low fares arent quite gone just yet. I have a day trip to Dublin booked flying on Ryanair for £20 return!

            Although back in the ol’ days i used to get Paris for £8 return.

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