April 6, 2017 – With each week bringing new announcements of airlines investing in and enhancing their passenger experience, British Airways was in danger of falling behind: indeed some said it had. Thus the British flag carrier has launched investment plans that focus on an enhanced experience in the premium cabins, and more choice and quality for all flyers.
A headline investment is the GB£400m (US$499m) being spent on Club World (BA’s long-haul business class). From June new catering will be introduced in to the Heathrow business lounges to improve food quality and the breakfast service hours will be extended to 11am. From July, Club World flyers will enjoy new linens and bigger pillows, a soft mattress topper and duvet, all designed for sleep comfort.
From September a new restaurant-style premium dining service will begin in Club World, with display trolleys allowing customers to select dishes from a choice of starters and desserts, served on new table settings. A revamped service approach will also be delivered to customers, with a new culinary boutique experience.
These changes will launch on flights between London Heathrow and New York JFK, before being rolled out across the rest of the long-haul network during 2018.
Below: BA is catching up with the restaurant-style cabin servoce offered by many carriers, such as Etihad
The airline is also developing options for a new seat in Club World with direct aisle access. Details will be released in due course ahead of its launch in 2019.
Alex Cruz, British Airways’ chairman and CEO, said, “We will invest and innovate where our customers value it most, and differentiate ourselves with a unique onboard experience and service. We’re investing in Club World, focusing now on improved catering and sleep and in the future on a new seat.”
Cruz is also focusing on the basics: “We’re making a commitment to achieve the highest standards of cleanliness and equipment reliability in all our cabins. Our customers will really notice a step-change in their travel experience with us.”
Above: You can watch Alex Cruz reveal the airline’s plans during a charter flight from Gatwick to Heathrow in our VIDEO LIBRARY.
The changes in service style will also be reflected in the Club Europe cabin on short-haul, including new crockery, cabin crew pouring wine and champagne, and improved menus on board, which focus more closely on the length and time of day of the flight.
In other Club Europe news, the short-haul business cabin is being introduced on UK domestic flights this week.
Cruz said, “Club World and Club Europe are vital elements of what we offer and play a big part in customer satisfaction levels. We are the only UK airline to have both short-haul and long-haul networks, and we want to ensure that customers connecting across our network receive a consistent and distinctive British Airways experience.”
From April, customers in all cabins will start to enjoy the latest generation of wi-fi as it’s rolled out across British Airways’ long-haul network. Short-haul wi-fi will commence later in the year when British Airways becomes the first airline to offer connectivity using Europe’s first ever 4G high-speed inflight network, with the aim of having 90% of its total fleet connected by 2019.
Customers will be able to use their own devices to browse the internet, access email and check social media. In addition, they will have the ability to stream video content from popular sites such as Netflix and YouTube.
There will be a choice of two options: Simply Connect or Connect Plus. Customers can choose whether they connect for one hour, four hours or the full flight. Simply Connect supports basic web browsing, email and instant messaging with prices from £4.99, while Connect Plus provides a faster connection speed supporting video streaming services from £7.99.
Business and first class customers will notice changes in lounges too, starting with the new complex at Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal. With sweeping views of the runway, the new First and Club lounges have 40% more floorspace than the airline’s former lounge in North Terminal.
An investment of £88m ($110m) is planned on lounge facilities in the US. New York’s JFK Terminal 7 will receive over £52m ($65m) worth of investment over the next two years, including a refurbishment of the First and Club World lounges as well as improvements to the customer experience at check in, security and the boarding gates. Boston’s new lounge has just opened, coinciding with the A380 starting on the Heathrow-Boston route. The facility is 30% larger than the previous lounge, and has direct gate access and stunning views over the Boston skyline.
Further investment is planned in San Francisco, Johannesburg, Manchester, Aberdeen, Rome, Geneva and Chicago. Heathrow’s Terminal 5 lounges will also be revamped over the next few years, starting this month with the flagship Concorde Room for First customers, which will have new furniture and a refreshed look and feel.
In other premium news, British Airways has launched its exclusive new ‘First Wing’ check-in area for First customers at Heathrow Terminal 5. It includes a dedicated two-lane security channel and direct access to the Galleries First Lounge and Concorde Room for the first time.
De-stressing the airport experience
Technology is also helping customers to simplify and speed up their journeys through the airport, with the opening of the airline’s first three automated self-boarding gates for UK domestic flights at Heathrow Terminal 5. The automated gates use facial recognition technology to allow customers to simply scan their boarding pass, before walking straight onto the aircraft. British Airways colleagues will still be on hand to help customers who need a little extra assistance. Additionally, customers are now able to self-service bag drop at Heathrow and Gatwick, enabling them to label and drop off their bags before proceeding through security.
Cruz added: “It’s simple really – we need to deliver what our customers value most, where they value it most. We need to focus on enhancing premium: offering contemporary service, improved catering and lounges and a consistent experience. In economy, where we know that price is the driver, we need to focus our efforts on delivering more seats at the lowest fares and giving customers choices.”
“We have an exciting time ahead. Alongside these initiatives, we’re also making changes behind the scenes to increase operational efficiency and reliability through new technologies including automatic boarding gates and a re-designed baggage arrivals process.”