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The new British Airways chairman and CEO on the meaning of Britishness, the changing face of aviation, and looking to the future
It’s a real pleasure to have this opportunity to say hello to you, our most important and valued customers. Let me introduce myself: my name is Alex Cruz and I am your new chairman and CEO. I was born in Bilbao and ended up going through both undergraduate and graduates studies in the US; there, I also worked for American Airlines in Dallas. In fact, I moved to London with AA nearly 21 years ago.
Ten years ago I started Clickair, a brand new airline that eventually merged with Vueling, which itself came into British Airways’ parent group, IAG, in 2013.
My life in the UK has taught me that BA is not just Britain’s ‘flag carrier’ but in some ways the ‘flag’ of British values too. Britain is well respected around the world as a pragmatic, business-oriented and internationally-aware society, and BA does well in upholding those values and delivering a product that reflects the ‘Britishness’ expected by many customers. Britishness evolves, of course, and one of my challenges will be to ensure that our airline’s Britishness remains up to date.
More than 30 years ago, I boarded a plane for the first time ever. It was a BA Boeing 757 from Bilbao to London. In those days, competition in the airline industry was very limited. There were no low-cost airlines, no deregulation within the EU and no ‘open skies’ across the Atlantic. Life could not be more different today.
‘One of my challenges will be to ensure that our airline’s Britishness remains up to date’
My recent experience has been in the most competitive aviation market in the world, European short-haul. But the development of low-cost long-haul carriers, the revitalisation of the US majors and the continuing growth of the Gulf ‘super-connectors’ mean that the competitive temperature is rising in almost every market in which BA operates. In the months and years ahead, I will be encouraging as much product and service innovation as possible to make sure the competition is defeated.
My first few weeks in this job have shown me how much pride BA people have in the airline and how much passion they have for it to succeed. We have many challenges ahead of us but we have everything we need to overcome them: great talent and experience, great colleagues and a great brand. I am humbled at the thought of what BA has done over the decades and excited about the opportunities for us in the future. Thank you for being great customers, and I look forward to meeting as many of you as possible in the time ahead.