British Airways will continue to be positioned as a premium carrier, boss Alex Cruz has stressed.
He addressed criticisms of the airline scrapping free food on short haul flights, the power outage over the spring bank holiday last May which left 75,000 passengers stranded and union accusations of cost-cutting in a wide-ranging interview yesterday.
“There were a few days last year that were bad so it had an impact on our reputation,” the BA chairman and chief executive told the Mail on Sunday. “This year, I think, is the year we sort ourselves out.”
BA is spending £4.5 billion on buying new aircraft, upgrading much of the current fleet and on other improvements including high speed wi-fi in the sky.
“We don’t have an internal project that says we are bringing BA back to the glory days – but we need to turn this airline around from the customer perspective,” Cruz admitted.
“The association with Britain, with British values is something that is absolutely in our DNA. As we prepare to celebrate our 100th anniversary next year, it will play a big part. If there is one attribute no one can take away from us and where no one can compete with us, it is this.
“We know when we haven’t delivered up to the standards we should – and we are absolutely trying to remedy every situation that is bad. People feel hurt, because we are part of the fabric of this country.”
He outlined a vision of BA’s fleet as a flying showcase for British brands, including bedding from the White Company, washbags from Liberty of London in first class, gin from Sipsmith and Fevertree tonic, plus wines from the Bolney estate in Sussex, M&S for the sandwiches and engines by Rolls-Royce.
“We are going to be a platform for British brands to continue to develop,” Cruz said. “There are many other partnerships we will announce with British companies.
“BA was incredibly pioneering back in 2000 when we made this big announcement of the first lie-flat bed in the market, even in the world. But now we have ground to make up with our competitors.”
The new business class beds will be introduced from next year.
“There will be more privacy, more space. There will be fewer seats. But our intention is not to put the ticket price up,” Cruz said.
He has invested in new data centres which he said will avoid repeats of the IT meltdown last year.
“That wasn’t a computer problem, it was a power problem,” he insisted. “We are much more resilient around power, systems and data now.”
Cruz added: “We will continue to be a premium airline for the rest of our lives, there is no way around it.
“Whatever we do, BA will always have a premium edge to it. There are very few plane seats left in Europe where you still get free food.”
Addressing the UK leaving the European Union, he said: “When you bring Brexit up, my feeling is we will be one of those cornerstone British companies that people will rely on.
“Over 100 years this airline has survived a world war, 9/11 and the financial crisis. The spirit of BA is to keep on flying.”
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