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More BA news: punctuality, new A380 First, free messaging, new website, GGL changes

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Yesterday, we published three articles profiling three changes that British Airways is rolling out to its customer experience and route network, including:

There were, however, even more announcements that we wanted to cover, but did not necessarily warrant dedicated articles. Let’s start at the top:

British AIrways improving punctuality

BA improving punctuality

“If the planes are running late, you’ve got a problem”. That’s what BA CEO Sean Doyle said in his opening remarks, and anyone who caught a British Airways flight last year is likely to agree.

The good news is that huge improvements have apparently been made.

“We have a pretty huge focus on operational resilience and punctuality …. over the last three months, we’ve made great progress: our average departure punctuality at Heathrow has been 80%. We’ve been better than the average of all the other carriers at the airport. And that’s a significant turnaround from where we were maybe six months ago.”

In comparison, the full-year average for all airlines at Heathrow last year was 63.4% so this is a significant jump.

On flights to New York JFK, where BA launched a focus on punctuality last year, the results have been even better:

“We have been the most punctual airline on JFK for the last six months. We’ve taken all those learnings and rolled it out to the rest of the network to make sure we’re on time.”

If British Airways can keep this momentum going into the summer, during the busiest travel period of the year, then I will be impressed.

British Airways new A380 First Class

British Airways to introduce new First Suites on the A380

Calum Laming, Chief Customer Officer at BA, reiterated what CEO Sean Doyle had already suggested in an interview with The Sunday Times last summer: British Airways is designing a brand-new First Class product for its fleet of 12 A380s.

Calum would not be drawn on further details, but BA did say that it would be a “brand-new and exclusive First suite.” This implies that the seat will feature some sort of door. Use of the word ‘exclusive’ suggests that this is a suite that has not been seen before and may be proprietary to BA.

The seat will be installed as part of the wider A380 refurbishment program to install Club Suite, which is due to start at the end of 2025 or early 2026.

Many questions remain, including whether the new seat will be rolled out more widely or whether it will offer a differentiated product for the A380 only. The size of the cabin and its location (it could move upstairs) are also under wraps.

A new First Class was also announced in 2019 by previous BA CEO Alex Cruz as part of the 777X order. This is also due to arrive in 2026 – will these aircraft feature the same product or another, differentiated new seat?

Many airlines offer a special First Class suite on their A380s where the increased space allows more creativity, and it would be great to see BA take this approach.

I previously speculated the direction British Airways could take with its new First in an article last year.

Free inflight messaging for British Airways customers

Free in-flight messaging

Arguably the announcement with the widest impact from Monday night – ie the only thing that impacts those at the back of the plane – was the introduction of free in-flight messaging for British Airways Executive Club members (no status required).

British Airways is behind the curve here, both compared to its competitors and its own IAG siblings. Iberia having offered free messaging for some time and Aer Lingus offering free-wifi for all business class passengers, as you can see from my review here.

Still, it’s good to see BA offer something that is increasingly non-negotiable rather than ‘nice to have’.

The new free-messaging functionality will begin rolling out across the fleet on 3rd April and should be complete within two weeks. 80% of BA’s Heathrow aircraft and 100% of Gatwick planes now featuring wi-fi capabilities whilst Cityflyer aircraft do not have the technology. The remaining aircraft will have it by 2025.

According to BA:

“The free messaging pass will allow British Airways Executive Club members to use messaging-type online applications, such as WhatsApp, iMessage, Facebook Messenger and Teams Chat – without images, videos or attachments, text only.

You’ll need to log into your Executive Club account, or create a new one, to access the service. It isn’t clear if this will be linked to your booking, which would exclude those who were crediting their flight to a different oneworld partner.

New British Airways website

New website and app on the way

Also reconfirmed was the work to redevelop the entire website and app, as well as many of BA’s back-end IT processes. According to Sean Doyle, some parts of the BA website are over 24 years old and in dire need of a ground-up rewrite. As part of the process, BA is also moving to the cloud, with 95% of servers due to be hosted remotely by the end of the year.

Overall, BA is investing around £750 million in upgrading its IT infrastructure.

The new site, which is already in beta testing for flight bookings between Gatwick and Bari, will increase self-service functionality and allow you to make more changes to your booking without having to use the call centre.

This includes help during periods of disruption. Whilst ba.com already lets you rebook cancelled or delayed flights online, the new system will also offer you alternative flights on other carriers.

The goal, according to Chief Commercial Officer Colm Lacy, is to allow passengers to self-service 100% of the time. That said, it is hard to see how the BA app could offer you your legal right of a flight on ANY airline to get home if the BA options are not suitable.

Food, drink and hotel vouchers for flight delays and cancellations will be delivered automatically by text message or email in future, helping to reduce confusion and stress when things go south. This carries its own risks of course – those without smartphone access (due to age, disability or simply lack of juice) may find themselves in a pickle.

A wider rollout of the new platforms is expected to happen in the second half of the year. Whilst it won’t all happen at once, there should be noticeable changes coming later this summer and into the autumn.

British Airways Premier card

And for Gold Guest List and Premier members ….

There were additional announcements at the Premier / Gold Guest List version of the event yesterday, both during the Q&A and during individual discussions with members. These were:

  • Gold Guest List will be made an official tier inside British Airways Executive Club, rather than a subset of Gold. This will have practical impacts because, for example, it will be visible by partners in Amadeus whilst at the moment a GGL just shows as a standard Gold member.
  • Group 0 boarding will be rolled out across the network – which presumably means most outstations will now board Groups 0-3 in one big crush rather than Groups 1-3 🙂
  • There will be a new reward added for reaching 5,000 tier points but the exact details of what you get have yet to be signed off

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards

How to earn Avios from UK credit cards (May 2024)

As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards.  Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!

In February 2022, Barclaycard launched two exciting new Barclaycard Avios Mastercard cards with a bonus of up to 25,000 Avios. You can apply here.

You qualify for the bonus on these cards even if you have a British Airways American Express card:

Barclaycard Avios Plus card

Barclaycard Avios Plus Mastercard

Get 25,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £10,000 Read our full review

Barclaycard Avios card

Barclaycard Avios Mastercard

5,000 Avios for signing up and an upgrade voucher at £20,000 Read our full review

There are two official British Airways American Express cards with attractive sign-up bonuses:

British Airways American Express Premium Plus

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British Airways American Express

5,000 Avios for signing up and an Economy 2-4-1 voucher for spending £15,000 Read our full review

You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points. These points convert at 1:1 into Avios.

American Express Preferred Rewards Gold

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The Platinum Card from American Express

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We recommend Capital on Tap for limited companies. You earn 1 Avios per £1 which is impressive for a Visa card, along with a sign-up bonus worth 10,500 Avios.

Capital on Tap Business Rewards Visa

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There are also generous bonuses on the two American Express Business cards, with the points converting at 1:1 into Avios. These cards are open to sole traders as well as limited companies.

American Express Business Platinum

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American Express Business Gold

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Click here to read our detailed summary of all UK credit cards which earn Avios. This includes both personal and small business cards.

Comments (137)

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

  • Guy Incognito says:

    The increase in APD for business class flights will surely make reward flights even less attractive…

  • Jack says:

    You will not ever be able to make everything self serve online it is impossible especially during disruption where you will most likely still need to speak to the call centre if you refuse the BA option as I cannot see BA allowing everyone to rebook onto other carriers costing them thousands upon thousands to do. Also I imagine airport ground staff will still give out vouchers at the airport where required especially for those who do not have internet access etc and some hotels still require physical vouchers so these cannot be changed to a text message one . I think the change to messaging is a good step for exec club members but rumours of charging for hand baggage should not go ahead otherwise BA is not any different to LCCS in Europe

  • NorthLondonLiberal says:

    This is only OK if Tory MPs fly economy from now on for ever and give up Govt jets and copters. Otherwise I’m appealing to the ECHR on the basis that I chose not to have children so I could fly business for pleasure and now I wish I had children so I could be eligible for tax breaks to fund business class travel. Stop shifting the goal posts Tories!

  • Voldemort says:

    There’s no sub-category for GGL in OneWorld though so GGL will still be Emerald to other members. Some other airlines already show the actual BA status (gold silver bronze) tier on boarding passes anyway. I think Finnair and MH does.

    • Chris says:

      Some airlines treat GGL well already. AA flags ggl as BA VIP. AA have escorted me to connections and put me on several flights over the years. Before boarding no waiting. Most fun was being walked in front of mc hammer and entourage onto plane at phoenix.

  • Brian Varney says:

    How about improving the experience of flying by, having polite pleasent flight crew , the ability to chose and order actual meals rather than the generic vegan, vegitarian options , seats that are clean and actually work, wash rooms that are cleaned during the flight, free wifi for business and above. I would dare to say that this is a lot more important than lounge upgrades

  • namster says:

    just came back from DXB CW 787, wifi out announced by cabin crew and also told by a cabin crew it has been out for months. That’s the real BA progress there 🙂

  • yonasl says:

    Some are asking how the Iberia system works:

    – connect to wifi on the plane
    – you go to shop.iberia.com
    – you log in with a shop Iberia account. You can create one on the plane (this account is used if you want to order food or pay for wifi)
    – you go to select “free wifi”
    – use your Iberia plus log in details (not the same as Iberia shop details you have or just created)
    – if you don’t have an IB plus account. You cannot create it while online as wifi limits what you can do

    Simples isn’t it?

  • vlcnc says:

    A new website would definitely be welcome – long overdue. A new app too tbqh. They’re both so slow, buggy and glitchy. I always feel nervous using them. Couldn’t check in recently on the app without uninstalling and reinstalling.

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

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