Against a backdrop of Brexit and closer attention to expenses with key sectors of its corporate accounts, British Airways chairman emphasized all ends of the leisure segment are going to become increasingly important for British Airways.
At a London press briefing for journalists and bloggers that included tours of BA’s new lounges at Gatwick and new First Wing VIP security channel at Heathrow, BA chairman Alex Cruz said the airline will fight hard against low cost carriers for budget travelers both in Europe and to North America.
To lower per seat costs, BA has reconfigured its fleet of Boeing 777s to have 10-across seating in World Traveler, up from nine across. Adding extra seats in the back of the planes means it can offer fares competitive to the likes of Norwegian Air Shuttle and Iceland’s WOW Air which often market lead prices under $100 each way. BA’s low-cost approach enabled it to open new routes from LGW to Oakland and Ft. Lauderdale.
At the same time he said affluent leisure travelers are a growth market for the airline and a key target for its World Travel Plus and Club World cabins, traditionally the domain of the business travel sector. Cruz said BA is putting $400 million into refreshing lounges, including in the U.S. and soft product enhancements to Club World. He said by 2019 it will have a new all-aisle-access business class seats, but no decision has been made on what part of the existing fleet will get retrofitted or when, or when the new seat will be revealed.
Cruz and BA, who have had an onslaught of criticism in the media of cost cuts and implementation of its European and domestic economy class buy-on-board service, said the airline is launching a new communications initiative of new, positive messages every Tuesday for at least the next seven weeks.