Q&A: New British Airways boss sets out his vision

Q&A: New British Airways boss sets out his vision

Former Vueling boss Alex Cruz succeeded Keith Williams as chief executive and chairman of British Airways only last month but already has a firm vision for the airline. Juliet Dennis reports

On getting the top job…

“What Willie [Walsh] is expecting me to do is bring in some ways of working that a company like Vueling had to develop to survive in a competitive environment.

“Some of this will be cost reduction, but some of it will be how we trade.

“I am very keen on using the unbelievable attributes British Airways has and making them work in the right way.”

On competing with low-cost rivals…

“Am I going to ‘low-cost-ise’ BA? No. It would be a mistake to make BA a low-cost airline. The opportunity is to make it more competitive overall.

“The number-one criteria for selecting an airline flight of two hours or less is price. Fewer than 1% of travellers chose an airline based on food. It’s unlikely BA will reach Ryanair’s cost structure, but we are on our way to reaching easyJet’s structure. Can we use price to stimulate, to have access to that market segment? Yes.”

On charging for 
inflight meals on short-haul flights…

“We have not concluded what we are going to do. If we do decide to move to a buy-on-board setup for European short-haul flights, it will be by far the best proposition of any airline that does it.

“My intention is to be able to add features to make it different; it could be price, how it is priced, access to product, and how we manage the experience.

“Everything in BA costs tens of millions. Moving to buy-on-board doesn’t necessarily mean you get rid of all these costs.”

On staff…

“We have great staff and the staff attachment to the brand to drive customer service in the company is huge. It’s humbling for me. It means I have a lot of responsibility to make it work. You can fly on lots of carriers and not find crew as experienced as BA’s. A lot of people pay for that and we need to leverage these kinds of things.”

On Sharm el-Sheikh…

“I’m sure we will come back to Sharm but I don’t think the circumstances will change this summer. Potentially they will for winter but the question is what we do in the shoulder seasons leading up to next summer.”

On future inflight technology…

“We have thousands of screens in our aircraft; the cost of removing them is huge. The first step is to equip 150 aircraft with inflight connectivity. I don’t think at BA we are ready to start switching off screens. It’s reasonable to say that in 10 years’ time airlines will have gone through the thinking of stripping out screens because there will be less need for them.”

On Gulf competitors…

“We recognise they are very competitive and they will continue growing and their product offering is very good. All these things will continue to motivate us to become a better airline. I am setting the tone internally that these carriers are providing a fantastic service and we have to be able to provide a proposition that goes beyond the brand safety of BA.”

On BA’s new Santiago route…

“When we looked at the number of customers travelling to Chile every year via Madrid, we decided it was time to offer this service. This is yet one more destination with a direct service that has not been served in recent times from Heathrow.”

On the EU referendum…

“My personal view is that it would be in the best interests of the UK to stay in Europe.”


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