British Airways chairman and CEO Alex Cruz on board the charter flight. Photo: Stuart Bailey

Faster Thinking

The magic roundabout

Chief executive Alex Cruz reports back from a special UK flight

Not many people have the opportunity to fly from Gatwick to Heathrow. Still fewer do so via the airspace over Stornoway in the Outer Hebrides. But that was my privilege recently when we operated a special 787 Dreamliner charter for journalists and social media influencers to launch our ‘New Thinking, New Flying’ programme of investment for customers. The reason for the roundabout route? So we would have more time for talking to our 40-plus guests, while also giving them the chance to enjoy the new catering and service style we will be introducing in Club World.

We started at Gatwick so the party could spend time in our excellent new lounge with its fantastic views of the airfield. And we ended at Heathrow Terminal 5 so everyone could experience the First Wing facility within 24 hours of its opening, and make the super-fast journey from check-in to a dedicated security area and straight into the First lounge. I’ve had outstandingly good customer feedback on this and, if you haven’t yet been able to try it, I hope you do soon.

The new lounge and premium check-in area at Gatwick symbolise our recent growth. Over the last five years, BA customer numbers there have risen 40 per cent. We’ve increased the volume of both long- and short-haul aircraft based at Gatwick and grown the network from 52 destinations to 68.

Our new home in South Terminal is proving popular and convenient, and I’m very confident there is more growth to come.

“In 2016 we had the most punctual short-haul record of the three biggest airlines flying from Gatwick to Europe”

One issue that cropped up at Gatwick was punctuality. We’ve put a lot of effort into strengthening our operation and in 2016 we had the most punctual short-haul record of the three biggest airlines flying from Gatwick to Europe. In fact, across all London airports, we outperformed easyJet and Ryanair by a distance and we’re continuing to invest in our operational resilience to grow that advantage further.

During our mid-air press conference, there was plenty of interest in our plans for better premium food and drink, a better sleep experience and our onboard Wi-Fi rollout. All of these will start appearing on our planes in the next few months. And I disclosed that we’re working hard on plans for a new Club World seat with guaranteed direct access to the aisle. We’ll say more about that as our proposals crystallise. We are doing the new thinking. I look forward to you joining us in the new flying.