British Airways chairman and CEO Alex Cruz. Photo: Stuart Bailey

Faster Thinking

A new Concorde Team and why we’ve gone driverless

Introducing a new Premium cardholder service and greener operations

I hope you’ve had an opportunity to enjoy our newly launched enhanced service for Premium cardholders at Heathrow or, if not, that you will have soon. We’re investing in and expanding our Special Services Team, who will now be known as The Concorde Team, dedicated to looking after you when you fly with us. Our aim is for them to be able to spend more time offering the service you expect from us, including some specific improvements when checking in at First Wing, in the baggage hall and if your flight is departing from a remote stand. I’m confident you’ll enjoy them.

Another improvement we’ve implemented at Heathrow is the introduction of the ‘Mototok’ - a remotely controlled, driverless ‘tug’ that pushes aircraft back from the gate before the flight crew starts taxiing out toward the runway. British Airways has become the first commercial airline to introduce this equipment. Five electric-powered Mototoks, emissions-free and capable of moving planes with precision, are now in operation at Terminal 5, moving Airbus short-haul aircraft. They replace traditional diesel tugs. We plan to roll out the Mototok across our short-haul operation by the end of the year and are looking at a timetable for extending its use to long haul. This investment brings environmental benefits and, just as importantly, customer benefits, as it supports our efforts to maintain and improve high punctuality standards.

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Mototok: the emissions-free future of aeroplane transportation

We are currently comfortably the best performer of the ‘big three’ short-haul carriers from London. Civil Aviation Authority data for June (the latest available month) shows that departures on time stood at 77 per cent – nine percentage points better than Ryanair and 23 points ahead of easyJet. For the 12 months to June, we were again nine points more punctual than Ryanair and 18 up on easyJet. I believe the Mototok will give us another push forward.

Another initiative to bring operational and environmental benefits is our new partnership to design a series of waste plants that convert household waste into renewable jet fuel. The partnership, with Velocys, a renewable fuels company, is part of our plans to develop long-term, sustainable fuel options. The first plant will take hundreds of thousands of tonnes of household waste, destined every year for landfill or incineration, including nappies, plastic food containers and chocolate bar wrappers, and convert it into clean-burning, sustainable fuels. This will contribute to the airline’s commitment to reduce net emissions by 50 per cent by 2050. The planned plant will produce enough fuel to power all British Airways’ 787-operated flights from London to San Jose, California and New Orleans for a year and we intend to supply our fleet with increasing amounts of sustainable fuel over the next decade.

“Our teams worked around the clock to reorganise flight schedules, resolving the travel plans of at least 10,000 customers”

As summer moved into autumn, our operational managers had to factor in another annual event: the hurricane season in the Caribbean, which this year proved exceptionally fierce. With Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Jose following in close succession, our teams worked around the clock to reorganise flight schedules and relief flights, liaise with the nine airports affected, position aircraft and crew around the region, provide thousands of meals for flights at very short notice and resolve the travel plans of at least 10,000 customers. In addition we offered flexibility to more than 40,000 other customers so they could choose either to delay trips to the region or come home earlier. And we have worked with a number of charities to help with the post-hurricane relief effort. The logistics of these episodes can be daunting and demand the kind of unruffled professionalism and swift decision-making that come only with long experience. It’s at times like these that you see the abundance of these qualities within British Airways.