Leaked Product Changes As British Airways Seeks To Restore Premium Reputation

Last week British Airways CEO Sean Doyle pledged to restore the airline’s reputation for premium service. Now, in a leaked memo to staff, we have a window into changes that BA is making. And so far they seem to amount to fairly weak sauce.

Here’s the claim we’re measuring against,

“There is room for optimism that we are on the way out” of the pandemic, and that the airline needed to “redefine” its place in the airline world, including a heavy emphasis on service and the passenger experience.

“Putting the premium proposition into the heart of what we do is going to be key,” he told the Financial Times at BA’s headquarters near Heathrow. “We want people to come off a British Airways flight and talk about it as if it’s something different.”

New British Airways Club Suite

Head For Points shares the internal BA communication on upcoming changes. There may be more coming down the pike but this is what they’re talking internally with employees about now.

  • Improve website to allow customers to make changes to their reservations. BA.com is atrocious at this, and call centers are impossible to get through to.

  • Hiring at call centers and new telephone system. In the U.S. the Executive Club phone system disconnects after a little over an hour, whether you’re on hold or finally get through to an agent. Sometimes you can get through on the U.K. non-elite (Blue) line.

  • Dedicated premium economy check-in

  • Baggage tracking in-app, it’s amazing that they don’t have this already

  • Plant-based menu offering in lounges

  • Relaunch kids Skyflyers program

  • New meals in Club Europe in March and new coach meals in May, along with ‘new improvements’ in business class

  • Loading more beverages on flights and extra meals so customers are more likely to receive their chosen selection

These all seem like reasonable things to do, and seem like bare minimum effort for running the airline responsibly, rather than making any semblance of progress towards the goal of restoring a premium reputation that has been decimated over the past decade at the carrier relied on its monopoly position at London Heathrow and discounting to fill cabins while aiming its competitive focus at ultra-low cost carriers.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. “We want people to come off a British Airways flight and talk about it as if it’s something different.”

    I do that now and it’s different alright – much worse than their competitors and much worse than it used to be.

    BA’s ability to buy and box out their competitors at LHR led to what we’re seeing now.

  2. “Plant-based menu offering in lounges”

    Seriously? BA is spending money to keep BA-loyalist vegans happy? Surely both of them will be pleased, but it’s utterly irrelevant in the midst of the problems plaguing BA.

    This looks like any other corporate goal list. The real initiatives–fixing the website and hiring call center staff–are costly and likely to fail. They look good on paper, but when the bill comes due, management won’t pay. So they pad this list with six other points that will cost very little, and at the end, they’ll be able to claim that they met 75% of their goals.

  3. Of course, nobody is forcing you to fly BA…or Delta or American, both of which get regular stick on here.
    And as for an hour or so on hold, BA are/were not alone on this…perhaps I have been lucky, but trying to change a Virgin Upper Class ticket is really frustrating , I’ll keep trying.

  4. Plant-based menus… next it’ll be special bathrooms for nonbinaries and windowless seats for albinos.

  5. Hi Gary, nice article. And good for BA to stand up and ask themselves honestly “how do we do this better and truly provide a good passenger experience?”

    They have figured out that nearly anybody can get a passenger from Point A to Point B. And BA has realized how much they are scraping along the bottom right now. And they are honestly admitting how low they’ve sunk, and that they not only aspire to being higher up but that they must make the changes to be higher up. So GOOD FOR BA TO FACE REALITY. Bravo to them for taking this important step. Let’s help them and hope that the BA of past years will be revived.

    Now if we could only get American Airlines to change its “race to the bottom” with truly awful service, meals that barely qualify as being called “food”, disgruntled employees (especially FAs), poor reliability, etc. They still say lots of “corporate-speak blather”, but really don’t give a care as they get worse and worse.


  6. So the bar “to restore premium reputation” is at we’ll start picking up the phone?

    A bit low, no?

  7. I see QATAR beginning to influence the other One World partners post-covid. A positive that could ripple through AA, BA and others.

  8. I regularly fly BA in F — again in two weeks — and I find the experience very nice.

    If Qatar sets the standard, try calling its US customer service line. And, tell me how the sound quality is and whether you can carry on an intelligible conversation.

    EVERY airline has its problems.

  9. I guess this is: a) So long overdue that BA’s promises are simply not credible any more. I will let others be the beta testers. b) As Gary said, too little. For example, if they really want to be a different experience why don’t they have real premium class in Europe? A coach-class seat with the middle seat empty is a coach class seat. If they announced that change it really would change the industry the way their leadership with fully-flat business class seats on the Trans-Atlantic route did years ago. We know that real business class on short/medium haul is viable, it is found on most US airlines.

  10. As mentioned fuel charges are ridiculous and have to pay to pre-reserve a business class ticket unless you have status is crazy!

  11. I find it absurd that BA charges for seat reservations in Business Class. We are already paying a hefty premium for upgrading from Economy…pure greed on BA’s part.

  12. Whats leaking?
    You mean our SH*t on a shingle we call food isn’t working?
    Of course we are different we charge the highest amount of passenger surcharges in the world
    Our customers enjoy an 8 hour hold times to our call centers to be disconnected
    That’s just some of the ways we keep folks talking about us and stand out from others 😉

  13. “We want people to come off a British Airways flight and talk about it as if it’s something different.” BA has already accomplished this for business class travelers within Europe. The seats are actually worse than Ryanair’s economy seats. When an AA Oasis seat up front looks like heaven by comparison to BA’s business class, you know that people talking about differences will not be flattering to BA.

    @Daniel @Kalboz +1

  14. BA charging for business seats is one of the best bits of “revenue engineering” they’ve ever pulled off. It is loved by their frequent fliers that buy expensive tickets @ the last moment as it allows BA to save the best seats for those fliers (for free as they are Silver or Gold tier fliers)

    Meanwhile for infrequent fliers — they still make some extra money from selling you the not so good seats … But they keep their regular (high margin) customer’s happy.

    Sad but true.

    Personally I hate it too. It’s just another item on their list of broken *premium* product items so I fly with other folks – @ least I have other options.

  15. Complete agree these seem to be a “bare minimum effort for running the airline responsibly”

  16. Like others here I used to be loyal to BA, but they have not been loyal to me under Alex Cruz (sp?). The last straw was not refunding COVID shutdown tickets (trying to palm me off with a voucher). I make a point of actively avoiding the airline now. Even AA is preferable on the Atlantic route.

  17. One more advocate of British Airways never being considered a premium product until their outrageous award ticket fuel surcharges are eliminated. Every other major loyalty program, except BA, allows premium redemptions without having to spend very much cash. It’s confusing why their Oneworld alliance partners let them get away with it.

    Gary, perhaps a good subject for a blog entry one day, the economics of award ticket fuel surcharges and why certain airlines charge them and other airlines do not and how that all factors into the alliance partnerships.

  18. “Putting the premium proposition into the heart of what we do is going to be key”. “We want people to come off a British Airways flight and talk about it as if it’s something different.”

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    during the booking process.
    Do I know what I want to eat a month before my flight? Do I want priority boarding? Duty-Free? Transport to/from the airport? Buy a tour/experience? Or a treat to a lounge? Probably yes! But would I buy it all together when all I want is to book my flight?! NO

    We at Guestlogix help airlines stay connected with their passengers throughout the entire journey, anticipating the needs with personalised ancillary products at the right stage of their journey, creating a seamless travel experience.

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    Guestlogix is not only a technology partner; we provide seasoned guidance from a team of retail experts at no additional cost. In addition, our Customer Success team acts as an extension of your team, bringing the right type of skills and experience to your deployment of the Guestlogix solution.

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