Faster Thinking

What we’ve changed, where we’re going and who we’ll always be

Chief executive and Chairman Alex Cruz reflects on a year of change and a coming year of growth

At this festive time of year, it’s natural to look forward and think about what the next 12 months will bring. At British Airways, we have a packed agenda as we move forward with our plans for investment and modernisation. To mention a few: we’ll welcome 18 brand new aircraft, including our first Airbus A320 and A321 ‘NEOs’ (New Engine Options) with their improved environmental performance; we’ll be operating our biggest-ever route network, with new long-haul services to Nashville and the Seychelles from Heathrow and Toronto and Las Vegas from Gatwick.  We’re continuing to expand short-haul and, in total, will be flying 39 more routes in 2018 than we did in 2016, up 17 per cent.  (That’s without including our new slots at Gatwick.) We’ll open redesigned lounges at New York JFK (Club and First), Rome and Aberdeen. Our transformation of Club World will continue with our very well-received catering and bedding changes rolling out beyond New York, Boston, San Francisco and San Jose across our long-haul network. And we’ll be installing wifi in the vast majority of our long-haul aircraft. Roll on, 2018.

The dawn of the New Year will also be the start of the countdown to our centenary in 2019: one hundred years of scheduled international flying by British Airways and its predecessor airlines. That’s a fantastic milestone – and one that inspires and motivates all of us.

Inset

April 2018 will bring a less welcome event. Air Passenger Duty, the highest aviation tax in Europe, will go up yet again: to £78 for long-haul economy from next April, and £172 for all other cabins including premium economy 12 months later. APD puts a brake on economic growth. It discourages UK businesses and individuals from interacting with the world and the world from visiting the UK. As the country prepares for life after Brexit, this tax makes less sense than ever. 

Reflecting on 2017, quite a bit of attention was given to our introduction of buy-on-board catering in short-haul economy in partnership with Marks & Spencer. I’ve even seen it claimed that there’s little difference now between us and the budget airlines. Nothing could be wider of the mark. To choose a few examples: we have far and away the best networks from London’s two most central airports, Heathrow and City; a fantastic loyalty programme, which offers great benefits including lounges (with complimentary catering) and priority in seat selection, check in and boarding; our unique Avios scheme that gives you points when flying or shopping for spending on future flights; the best punctuality record of the ‘big three’ short-haul carriers departing from London; a choice of cabin, even on UK domestic services; more choice of flight times; more journey options in weather disruption – and our brilliant flight crew and cabin crew, who have an unrivalled bank of experience and expertise. We are, and always will be, a premium airline.