Published on October 9th, 2016 | by Jim Lee0
British Airways refines its product, services and fleet
On 29th September, British Airways (BA) announced a partnership with Marks & Spencer to provide a pay for food option, for short-haul economy fliers (Euro Traveller and UK Domestic), replacing the airline’s current complimentary snacks and beverages. The new BA menu, which will replace the airline’s current complimentary snacks, will include items from the M&S ‘Food on the Move’ selection. It will be available in the economy cabin on short-haul and domestic flights from Heathrow and Gatwick from 11th January 2017, and from London City and London Stansted by summer 2017. Everything on the new food menu will be priced at under £5 (around €5.56) – ranging from just £1/€1.11 (for hand cooked crisps) to £4.95 95/€5.50 (for a Balanced for You spiced chicken with quinoa and rice salad). Menu choices include vegetarian, gluten free and healthy fresh options plus snacks and comfort foods. Current food options on short-haul flights vary, depending on the length of the service, and time of day. Examples include a choice of twin pack biscuits, crisps, roasted nuts, sesame sticks or raisins on flights of less than two hours, or small salads on flights over that.
Club Europe (short-haul business class) customers will continue to be offered a full, complimentary menu, which is also being improved and revamped from spring 2017, as part of the changes to short-haul catering. Further details will be released on the changes nearer the time.
Catering on British Airways’ long-haul flights will remain unchanged with complimentary meals available to all customers. However, in recent years the airline has increased the choice of meals on board, adding the option for customers to pre-pay for an enhanced meal in economy from £15, (around €16.68) and to pre-order their complimentary meal in World Traveller Plus (premium economy), Club World (business class) and First, to ensure they get their first choice.
The collaboration follows extensive customer research and feedback, which highlighted dissatisfaction with the airline’s current short-haul economy catering, and found fliers want more choices that reflect, what they would normally select, when out and about.
Alex Cruz, British Airways’ Chairman and CEO, said: “We know our customers expect a great experience with British Airways. They’ve told us we are experts in flying and service, but when it comes to catering on short-haul flights, they want to choose from a wider range of premium products. Like British Airways, Marks & Spencer is a well-known, premium British brand that is respected and trusted, so it’s an ideal partnership, providing our customers with a choice of products they recognise and value.”
“I firmly believe what we are delivering breaks the mould and sets a new standard in short-haul catering. We will be providing a selection of premium brand, fresh food options and a menu that will be refreshed on a quarterly basis.
“We will also enable travellers to be able to use their Avios, the points they earn as an Executive Club member, to purchase meals. We know they’re always looking for ways to use their Avios and this is a great option for them.”
Andy Adcock, director of food at Marks & Spencer, said: “We’re proud to be supplying a great British brand with a reputation for quality and customer service that mirrors our own. For 35 years we’ve had a market leading ‘Food on the Move’ offer and we’ll supply British Airways with customer favourites and healthy choices made with outstanding ingredients, all with the provenance you’d expect from M&S.”
So what does the new British Airways menu offer?
BA joins a growing number of airlines offering a pay for food option on short-haul economy flights, including its IAG partner airline, Aer Lingus. The collaboration with Marks & Spencer is calculated to provide best food in the sky for short-haul customers. Menu options include a number of great fresh options, as well as packaged products that are easy for customers to eat on the flight, or take with them for their onward journey, all chosen for their flavour at altitude.
The airline will also offer customers a full bar service, with drinks supplied via airline supplier, Tourvest Inflight Retail Services. Soft drinks are priced from £1.50 (€1.66) and alcoholic drinks from £4 (€4.44). Payment will be quick and easy via debit or credit card, including contactless transactions. Customers will also be able to pay with Avios via the BA app or with their Executive Club card.
Throughout the year, the aim is to deliver bespoke items designed specifically for BA customers by Marks & Spencer. Elements of the menu will also change on a quarterly basis to reflect the seasons.
Comparison with other airline’s products
According to British Airways, an Easyjet sandwich is £4.50 (around €5), whereas British Airways’ Marks & Spencer sandwiches cost £3 (around €3.33) for nine month aged farmhouse cheddar cheese ploughman’s. A packet of crisps on Ryanair costs £2.16 (around €2.40) whereas a packed of hand-cooked crisps on BA will cost £1 (around €1.11). A cup of tea on Norwegian costs £2.50 (around €2.77), and on BA will cost £2.30 (around €2.55).
New food offering latest in a tranche of updates to the airline’s short-haul services
The new food offering is the latest in a tranche of updates to the airline’s short-haul services. Since 2014, 95 short-haul aircraft have been revamped with an updated interior. The new short-haul cabins feature elegant charcoal grey leather seats, which are slimmer than their predecessor, and ergonomically designed to enable the addition of extra seats in the Euro Traveller (economy) cabin but without being cramped. Innovative design maximises personal space and comfort, with chair backs devised to provide more knee space and an eye-level magazine rack also doubles as a seatback tablet-holder. The new cabin is proving very popular with customers.
Earlier in 2016, BA simplified its short-haul fares to just three options: Basic, Plus and Plus Flex. Customers purchasing a ‘Plus’ fare benefit in particular, thanks to the additional flexibility of being able to change their flight on the day of travel for free – an option that wasn’t available on the previous standard fare. It also gives a 23kg checked baggage allowance, plus the airline’s generous hand baggage allowance and free seat selection from 48 hours prior to departure.
Plus Flex fares are fully refundable, allow free changes on the day, free seat selection at time of booking and the airline’s generous hold and hand baggage allowances.
On 11th August, BA added the 131st A320 family aircraft, Airbus A320-232, GGATU (c/n 3089) to its fleet. The aircraft, originally delivered to Kingfisher Airlines on 13th April 2007 as VT-KFT, is leased from Aercap and also served with Nouvelair, as TS-INS. It was previously registered as OE-IES and EI-EYE. IAG has a further 100 Airbus A320neos on firm order or on option (80).
British Airways to reduce business-class-only A318 service to New York
At the start of September, BA confirmed that it was making permanent reductions to its business-class-only A318 service from London City to New York, which will see the service reducing from 11 to 6 weekly, at the start of winter 2016/17 schedule on 30th October. This will be achieved by dropping the previously operated second afternoon service, the BA3 westbound and BA4 eastbound. The westbound service operates via Shannon and it will operate with the following revised schedule.
- BA001 LCY 09:45 – 11:05 SNN 11:55 – 14:30 JFK, Monday – Thursday,
- BA001 LCY 12:15 – 13:35 SNN 14:55 – 17:30 JFK, Friday,
- BA001 LCY 12:35 – 13:55 SNN 14:45 – 17:30 JFK, Sunday
- BA002 JFK 18:50 – 06:55+1 LCY, Daily except Saturday.
The premium service, operated by two dedicated 32 seat Airbus A318-112s, G-EUNA and G-EUNB, is particularly exposed to the reported reduced demand for corporate travel prompted by the UKs’ vote to leave the European Union. A return ticket between City and New York Kennedy costs about £3,650 (around €4,050), based on a random pricing of flights, during November. Luton based La Compagnie, has also announced that it had suspended its service to Newark, effective Sunday, 25th September citing the Brexit vote’s impact on the transatlantic market.
“We constantly evaluate the commercial performance of our entire global network and will increase or reduce our schedules as we feel appropriate,” BA said. “Any customers affected by the changes will be rebooked on to an alternative flight or offered a full refund.” BA offers nearly 19,000 weekly seats to JFK, so the impact of the less than 220 weekly seats, will be insignificant for the airline. However, the cut-back will have an impact on Shannon, as there is a crew change there and also passengers use its pre-clearance facility.
Corporate fares and ability to change itinerary via British Airways’ New Distribution Capability announced
On 3rd October, British Airways’ announced the roll-out of the latest development from its New Distribution Capability (NDC), which is set to benefit the corporate travel community and significantly move the programme forward.
NDC is the International Air Transport Association’s (IATA) programme that improves communications between airlines and the travel buying community, by addressing the industry’s current distribution limitations around product differentiation, time to market, access to full and rich content and the transparency of the shopping experience.
To date, British Airways NDC programme has enabled connected parties to book published fares on British Airways and partner carriers. The latest changes will enable any corporation with a British Airways contract and access to an NDC-enabled system to gain full access to their deal, including holding a booking, paying at a later date, cancelling their itinerary, and adding ancillaries such as seat reservations and pre-order catering. They are also able to make changes to flight itineraries such date and time changes and cabin upgrades. However, each corporation’s deal will remain as negotiated, and all terms and conditions associated with it, will continue to apply.
Marie Hilditch, British Airways’ head of corporate sales, said that this development is just the start, as the airline would be “evolving and developing more services via NDC to equip travel bookers with all the content and tools they need to make managing itineraries quick and simple via systems they already have in place.”
Other recent NDC developments from the airline have included the ability to pre-book additional luggage, advise the airline of catering requests (pre-order in Club World and First, pre-paid enhanced meal options in World Traveller and World Traveller Plus and special meal orders), add Executive Club and On Business numbers to bookings and pay British Airways via IATA’s Billing and Settlement Plan.
British Airways recruiting new pilots for its London City based Embraer fleet
BA has begun a recruiting for new pilots for its expanding fleet of Embraer jet aircraft at London City Airport. The ambitious recruitment programme was launched during September, to find both direct entry captains and first officers, to join BA CityFlyer, the wholly owned BA subsidiary that operates from the Docklands airport, to more than 30 business and leisure destinations across Europe. The new recruits will join over 200 existing pilots who currently fly the fleet of 20 Embraer 170 and Embraer 190 jet aircraft, based at London City Airport.
The recruitment drive was launched on 19th September, with a roadshow at The Heathrow Hotel Bath Road, close to Heathrow Airport, hosted by the BA CityFlyer Pilot Management team. The event was aimed at experienced pilots with existing commercial or military experience.
All BA CityFlyer pilots are supported in their career progression with the opportunity to apply to British Airways mainline following a minimum of two years’ service and subject to vacancies being available.
Recently, BA welcomed nearly 40 Help for Heroes (H4H) wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans on board its full motion flight simulators, for its third annual ‘Flying Heroes’ event.
The airline provided nine of its 16 multi-million pound cockpit simulators, including its A380 superjumbo and 787 Dreamliner sims, for the visitors to test their skill at landings and take-offs, across a range of the carrier’s near 200 global destinations.
Each simulator was hosted by one of the airline’s highly-trained pilots to make the experience even more like the real thing.
The airline launched Flying Heroes in 2014 to give the H4H injured and ill men and women the opportunity to experience a modern flight simulator, and possibly even inspire them to fly. The visit this year was also supported by Aerobility – a registered charity offering people with disabilities the opportunity to fly planes.
The airline has a long history of supporting the Armed Forces and has backed the Help for Heroes charity, through many projects and sporting activities. The airline built a first class cabin rest area at Tedworth House, Wiltshire, one of the charity’s Recovery Centres. The ‘cabin’ was designed to give people recovering from illness and injury a space that allows a different type of recovery environment and an alternative place to rest.
This day was particularly special and provided the H4H serving personnel and veterans, not only the rare opportunity of a simulator flight, but also the chance to learn more about the airline’s ground operation by driving an aircraft pushback tug and being shown how to operate a de-icing rig.
Head of External Operations at Help for Heroes Mark Elliot, said: “Nine years ago when Bryn and Emma (H4H CEO’s) started the charity, they asked the country to ‘do their bit’ for wounded, injured and sick service personnel and veterans, and British Airways have continued to do their bit.
“There are men and women here that have smiles on their faces for the first time in a long time. It’s been a great day.”
Peter Dunning, from Liverpool, was injured in Afghanistan in 2008 when the vehicle he was travelling in drove over an IED (improvised explosive device) – he lost both his legs and his spine was fractured. Peter said: “Today has been amazing; I can’t think of a strong enough word to express how it’s been.
“The British Airways Captains let me fly over my house in Liverpool in the A380 simulator and afterwards we saw the real plane – I can’t believe I flew a plane that big!”
British Airways training Captain and organiser of Flying Heroes, Nigel Cemm, said: “Some things in life are definitely worth doing; Flying Heroes is undoubtedly one of them”.