British Airways’ head of global sales Mark Muren has pledged to build new, stronger relationships with the trade as the airline – and travel – seeks to recover and emerge from the Covid crisis.
Muren joined BA from United in November 2019, taking over responsibility for all the carrier’s indirect sales channels – only for the sector to be plunged into the greatest crisis in its history a matter of months later.
Speaking on Monday (26 April), Muren revealed that despite BA having reduced the size of its sales team by around a third due to the Covid crisis, he was confident the airline would emerge with a "leaner and better" sales team, backed by a senior leadership team sharing a collective sales vision and culture.
"We intend to approach partnerships with a greater sense of partnership and enthusiasm," said Muren. "Trade partners make us who we are, particularly in [this] recovery from the pandemic.
"We acknowledge the need to do partnership right, it will be the core and foundation of our recovery – [and] we have commitment right from the top."
Muren repeatedly stressed his and his team’s vision had the backing of new BA chief executive Sean Doyle, who took over from long-time leader Alex Cruz last October.
"Sean wants to create a culture grounded in service, excellence and partnerships," said Muren, who revealed the "bulk" of BA’s revenue – "historically more than half" – came from indirect channels, such as the trade.
He also admitted there was work to be done, though, with the carrier having leaned towards direct sales "in the near-term". "Long-term, we continue to think booking through the trade will be a strong majority," said Muren, stressing BA was aware it had under-invested in partnerships in recent years.
Priorities for BA, said Muren, include investing in the carrier’s call centres to ensure it was able to service trade partners 24/7; other developments include developing a self-service portal for the trade, likely to be a "multi-year process", and striking a better balance between contact points, and automated and self-service facilities.
He said BA would seek to continue moving towards more modern and sustainable distribution platforms, and using NDC to give the trade native access to richer content. A partnership with Amadeus was inked in February, and Muren said discussions with other providers were ongoing.
Muren said the leisure market was driving any green shoots of recovery at the moment, and said he was confident the airline could be nimble this summer – particularly with the government’s list of "green" destinations yet to be revealed.
He said BA’s network would be "very dynamic" over the coming months, with the overarching aim to fly everywhere possible, providing it is safe and commercially responsible to do so. He pointed towards an increased focus on flying to the Maldives, as well as new opportunities to serve Jersey and Gibraltar.
Additionally, Muren said with BA set to return with a different network, there would be opportunities to offer fams, and that the airline was intending to bring them back "in a meaningful way".
Muren said BA’s pilots and crews were being "circled around" while aircraft were being kept air-ready to ensure "the right people and aircraft are ready to go", although he said there would, inevitably, be some lead-in time required to restart destinations as they roll onto the government’s "green list".
A key priority for BA, said Muren, was the resumption of transatlantic operations, and he said the carrier welcomed new competition in the form of JetBlue, which plans to launch flights to London from New York JFK and Boston later this year.