An interesting article appeared in the Mail on Sunday yesterday entitled “British Airways’ blueprint to go upmarket again”.
I am not going to go into the article in detail, since there is nothing in it which will be news to regular Head for Points readers.
What DID make me do a double-take was this paragraph:
“It marks a huge shift for BA under new boss Sean Doyle, whose predecessor Alex Cruz was accused by investors and passengers of trying to take BA downmarket and compete with budget airlines such as Ryanair. BA said the change in strategy had begun under Cruz but the airline is now able to accelerate its plans.“
This is, I think, very disingenuous. The lead-time to get anything done in aviation is measured in years, not months. The requirement to thoroughly safety-test everything means that you can’t move quickly, even if you want to.
It is simply not true that Sean Doyle is the architect of the changes that are now being put in place. Whilst HfP was far from being Alex Cruz’s biggest cheerleader, I personally liked him and in many ways he was simply a puppet for Willie Walsh, then Chief Executive of BA’s parent company IAG.
Let’s take a look at every single British Airways ‘improvement’ listed in the Mail on Sunday article. Remember that Sean Doyle was at Aer Lingus until he took over at BA last Autumn and so had no input, at all, into anything the airline did before that.
“new digital ordering systems for in-flight meals” on short-haul – this was announced by Sean Doyle, I admit. However, the termination of the Marks & Spencer contract was announced on 26th October. Cruz was fired on 12th October but the M&S decision would obviously have been taken by then. I have been told that the move back to ‘free water and a snack’ in Economy had been signed-off by Cruz at the same time.
“Long-haul passengers in premium cabins will be served food from gourmet menus prepared by chefs in new kitchens next to the runways at Heathrow” – the Do&Co catering contract was announced in September 2018
“Cabin crew will get new uniforms designed by Savile Row tailor Ozwald Boateng” – the Ozwald Boateng uniforms were announced in September 2018, to be rolled out for the #BA100 celebrations in 2020 (ahem)
“new flat-bed seats, with a door to the aisle, are being installed in business class” – Club Suite was launched in March 2019
“From this week, First Class passengers flying from Heathrow will be able to recharge before their flights in ‘Sleep Pods'” – this is likely to be a Sean Doyle innovation, but it is a replacement for the Elemis Spa treatments in the lounges which have been scrapped as a cost saving measure
“It has also set up partnership with a company called AirPortr that allows customers to pay £150 to have their bags collected from their home and checked in.” – indeed it has, but the AirPortr partnership with BA was launched at Terminal 5 in December 2015. This contract even predates Alex Cruz, who only became British Airways CEO in April 2016.
It is true that there is some good stuff going on at British Airways at the moment. What isn’t true is the narrative that this is due to Sean Doyle riding in from Aer Lingus to change everything that the nasty old Mr Cruz put in place.
PS. If the phrase ‘thrown under the bus’ makes no sense to you, you can catch up here.
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