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Has British Airways thrown Alex Cruz under the bus?

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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.

Alex Cruz British Airways CEO

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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Comments (69)

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

  • Ziggy says:

    This is classic rebranding (on a small scale). The guy who’s been ejected was the one ruining your travels and the reason why “the world’s favorite airline” went down the pan. The new guy is a superstar who’s going to make it all amazing again. Amusing to see the heritage of Pravda/Isvesita alive and well at Waterside 🙂

  • JAXBA says:

    Are we not confusing what the Mail has written with what BA is saying?

    “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…”

    The above is the Mail’s words. The below is BA’s, acknowledging the changes began under Cruz:

    “…BA said the change in strategy had begun under Cruz but the airline is now able to accelerate its plans.“

    I didn’t like Cruz myself, but I don’t see any pushing him down here, just some spin on the new direction.

    • Crafty says:

      Indeed. No bus throwing. However, it is funny that not a single example they’ve listed appears to be a genuine, new change in the “upmarket” direction. They will have to do a lot better than that.

  • BS says:

    The strategy was started by Cruz, continuing WW, seen even he had gone too far and was then started to be reversed by Cruz. You shouldn’t get credit for reversing disastrous policies you put in in the first place.

  • Andrew says:

    Al Baker summed it up well a few weeks ago. But it really doesn’t matter who’s “fault” it was, just good to see things hopefully returning in a positive direction.

  • Dev says:

    Isn’t the £6.5bn figure including new aircrafts? Is is, it is a bit disingenuous … you order brand new 787s and A350s but still fill it with crap seats and service!

    • Rhys says:

      I wouldn’t call Club Suite a crap seat!

      • Dev says:

        Figure of speech … what I meant was airlines can order new planes and install crap seats and maintain crap services … Air India comes to mind!

        Going back to BA, club suite is good and whilst I haven’t sat on it, I have used the Qatar version of it many times. I just find the idea of highlighting the billions of aircraft orders as a way to improve service and brand standards a bit disingenuous!

  • Peter says:

    Err, it’s a daily mail article/fluff-piece; “I’m ready for my upgrade Mr Doyle”

    • John says:

      Have to get into the comments for the real story!

      • The Savage Squirrel says:

        It’s a brave person that goes into the Daily Mail comments section. The type of person found there is hilarious and yet terrifying.

  • 1ATL says:

    The fact you like Alex Cruz comes across loud and clear. And it wouldn’t be the first time either. What happened to impartial journalism? It wasn’t too bad an article until the special fwiend status was thrown in and I lost all respect for the piece.

    • Rob says:

      Intriguing statement given that I was mentioned in The Economist and won ‘Editor of the Year’ at the 2017 Business Travel Journalism Awards for our critical coverage of Cruz’s BA service cuts

    • P4D says:

      The piece was fine

      Cruz is gone – get over it 🙂

  • Chris Heyes says:

    Rob I’m sorry not like you, but doesn’t come across as impartial, even if it is ?
    Maybe you should in hindsight let Rhys handle the article
    Although I disagree with
    1ATL the piece is fine, plus if you liked him that’s your probative
    people can like who they choose, for whatever reason they choose

    • marcw says:

      Who said Hfsp was/is impartial?

    • Rob says:

      The article is a list of factual statements Chris. If anything, I disguised a factual piece as an opinion piece, but it is a factual piece.

      • Chris Heyes says:

        Rob, I did say the article is fine, in fact a very good article.
        The problem with someone leaving is whoever comes in has to be “BETTER”
        Whether he is or not is a conversation for another day ?
        A chance to blame what’s not right on the leaver his fault or not isn’t important the scapegoat is there
        I am better things will improve under me, “aren’t you glad he’s gone”
        blah blah blah
        Until the “NEXT” one comes around, start again lol

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

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