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WTM

BY Rob Gill

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WTM 2017: BA chief, ‘Hard lessons’ have been learnt this year

British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz has admitted that “hard lessons” have been learned from the airline’s IT meltdown and the much-criticised introduction of its buy-on-board food service.

Alex Cruz British Airways

The airline had to cancel hundreds of flights in May after suffering a major IT failure and there has also been criticism of the way BA has handled introducing a paid-for food and drink service on short-haul flights.

 

“Since the IT crash, lots of studies and audits have been completed,” said Cruz during an on-stage interview at WTM London. “The biggest outcome has been a renewed focus on investment and acceleration of IT projects.

 

“The event itself sped up a great deal of these investments from a resilience and IT power perspective.”

 

Cruz added that the airline was now in a “much better position” to deal with any similar IT situations in the future.

 

He also said that introducing buy-on-board on short-haul flights was “absolutely the right decision” and was becoming “the model for short-haul” for all airlines.

 

But Cruz admitted that the introduction of the service was not without its problems.

 

“We didn’t deliver the onboard catering,” he added. “We have simplified the menu and allocated more crew to create a faster service on busier flights.”

 

Cruz said that BA was going to be investing £4.5 billion over the next five years on improving its customer experience. This includes taking delivery of 72 new aircraft and introducing a new Club World business-class seat in 2019.

 

“We are a premium airline and we are always going to be a premium airline – we must live up to that promise,” he added. “We have to make sure our product and service is delivered in the best way. There should not be any confusion about that.”

 

Cruz, who took over at the airline 18 months ago, said that BA would continue expanding its network over the next few years – new long-haul destinations to Nashville and the Seychelles are being added next year, while Figari in Corsica was announced as a new short-haul destination from Heathrow this week.

 

These extra destinations mean that BA will have added a total of 38 new routes between summer 2016 and summer 2018 under Cruz’s leadership.

 

Cruz also reaffirmed the airline’s commitment to the trade and said BA was working to “figure out what’s the best way to connect” with agents.

 

“BA is totally committed to the trade,” he said. “We could not live without the trade – 60% of our sales are indirect. We have just started a new way of distributing tickets.”

 

Cruz also said that BA would be a “fantastic asset” for Britain as the country left the European Union because its new routes could help to forge trade links around the world.

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