British Airways laid out their plans for the future today, in the best way possible: cruising in circles at 43,000 feet, in a state of the art Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner. On hand, CEO Alex Cruz personally laid out the future of the airline, it’s current woes and what passengers can expect in the near term. Naturally you’ve got questions, so here are ten things we learned from this special flight from London Gatwick to London Heathrow, with a flight duration of 3 hours…

More on the First Wing this week…

New Direct Aisle Access Club World Seat Will Debut In 2019′ On the A350, Others?…

Hooray! Direct aisle access, but not until 2019. Alex Cruz proudly mentioned that the airline was the first to offer flat beds on board 20 years ago, and now they will join the current standard of aisle access for all business customers within the next two years. The seat will be a far more private offering, with more appealing design oriented touches, larger entertainment screens and will debut on Airbus A350-1000 service. As to a retrofit for other planes?. No official decision has been made. It would be nice to see an even more revolutionary seat retrofitted onto the rest of the fleet as time moves on. In the meantime, perhaps a little touch up? 

The New Gatwick First And Galleries Lounges Are Legitimately Nice…

I got a full walk through of the new lounges and even managed to sneak in a glass or two of the new(ish) Henriot Brut Souverain, a wonderful champagne choice on the ground, and in the air. The new lounges feature higher ceilings, 40% more useable seating areas and fresh, refined, contemporary furniture. The view from the Galleries First lounge, peering directly over the runway are not to be missed. Little touches like a kids room with glass walls, allowing parents to monitor their children from the comfort of a chair with a glass of something relaxing is clever, as is the closed off business center. The shower suites, which look really nice are available to all guests in either lounge and offer a nice private area to refresh.

New Mattresses, Pillows, Duvets Coming To Club World In July…

Thank goodness! British Airways have concluded through surveys that business (Club World) passengers care most about sleep, quality sleep. I could’ve saved them some money on that survey. With that in mind the airline will launch brand new high end mattress toppers, duvets, pillows and other fresh, sleep related amenities starting in July. United’s new “Polaris” seat has received rave reviews, mainly based on mattresses and pillows from Saks Fifth Avenue alone, so this is a solid move to “enhance” (my least favorite word) the service in the interim before new planes roll in…

Fast Wifi Is Coming To The Entire British Airways Fleet…

The IAG group is undergoing a massive Wifi haul, bringing current, top performing wifi to their entire fleet. The short haul fleet will use ground based wifi, while the long haul fleet will offer satellite based service. Basic (text, browse, email) internet will start at £4.99, while “Connect Plus” will start from £7.99 and feature Netflix streaming capability, in theory. The service should be available in the coming year and it’s clearly a priority to the airline moving forward. Hey, it’s about time, but this is very positive.

Biometric Gate Boarding Is The Future, And It’s Coming…Now.

Why process one or two passengers at a time when you can process four? Everyone hates waiting for their flight to push back, and British Airways have invested in Biometric gates, starting with one at Heathrow and (I believe) two at Gatwick. The gates use shared biometric information from check in/security, so without needing to have a human scan your pass and validate, you can board. You’ll scan your boarding pass, face a camera and the biometric data will be analyzed, offering four simultaneous gates to pass through. After trying it for myself today I can say it was impressively fast. According to Alex Cruz, the flights that have used these gates thus far have experienced remarkably speedier boarding and performance. 

Buy On Board Will Remain For European Short Haul, But There’s Talk Of Freebies For Elite Executive Club Members…

Buy on board is simply the way of life for short haul European service, especially as the airline becomes more price conscious (and hopefully launches more fares to match). The airline made the argument that elsewhere around the world, virtually no airlines offers complimentary food on flights under 3 hours, which applies to a majority of theirs routes. The glimmer of hope for those distraught with changes is talk of potentially comp’d meals or beverages for Executive Club elite members. Perhaps digital drink vouchers, or meal vouchers. This is something Alex Cruz described as something they’re actively investigating. This is a must in my opinion.

Investment NOT Just In London, New York Is Getting A Massive Overhaul, Others Too…

I love airport lounges, I practically live in them, but British Airways lounges in New York JFK terminal 7 are not amongst my favorites, by a long shot. The airline is investing £88 ($110) million in U.S. lounges, with JFK receiving over half of that number with £52 ($65) million in investment. The New York route is a clear breadwinner for British Airways and an investment not only in the lounges, but the pre flight dining experience will be a welcome site. The process is expected to take roughly 2 years and with primary control of JFK Terminal 7, I’d expect they can accomplish great things. The new Boston lounges are exceedingly popular.

Self Service Baggage Drop Kiosks Are Working At Heathrow And Gatwick…

Waiting to drop bags off sucks. Full stop. To move the times in line with technology for all passengers, yes, even economy passengers, British Airways is investing heavily in speedy self service bag drop. They plan to keep staff on hand to assist with any needs or issues that arise, but there’s no question that these kiosks are faster, better, stronger. This is an attempt to raise economy offerings over the efficiency of their low cost competitors. Kiosks are currently in place at both Gatwick and Heathrow and can be expected in more airports in the near future. This is a great move, as most people now use mobile boarding passes, making the bag drop process further painful. 

Truth Be Told, Alex Cruz Is An Awesome Guy…

Yes, this is the man I suggested may be better suited at another airline recently, but after he replied publicly, it became clear that he is a man of character. After meeting today and chatting extensively I can say he’s also a funny, passionate guy. I mean that. Yesterday marked his one year anniversary at British Airways, and much like a presidency, there’s only so much you can do in a year, and some things are inherited. Think things like new seats coming in 2019. If Alex left tomorrow those seats would be someone else’s issue. I was pleased to  hear that he wants change and is actually somewhat frustrated with their ability to enact it quickly. Something he hopes to improve. I don’t believe that he’s here to ruin British Airways, I think he’s just getting his feet, and personally, I’m hopeful (I do fly with them frequently, of course) that weathering the next year or so will lead to better products all around. Make of this what you will, but I’m not easily impressed with people, in fact I despise most, and I truly enjoyed Alex. He’s a character for sure.

Dining Carts Displaying Appetizers And Entrees Coming To Club World…

Today we experienced the new Club World service, launching in September. The new service is designed to be fast, fresh and most importantly edible, even tasty I’d dare say! Catering improvements are a major change up starting with better ingredients and moving all the way down to plating and preparation. Obviously this was a flight where it was going to be perfect, but the catering seemed vastly improved and the bolder flavor profiles reflected the umami tastes you crave in the air. I was thoroughly impressed. For example, the smoked salmon had wasabi creme fräiche, which gave it that little extra kick to hit your palate at altitude. You’ll be able to select an appetizer off the moving tray (pictured above) with a top up on beverage at the same time. While this is happening, hot entrees will be prepared and the cart will return again for after dinner drinks and dessert. 

More Flash Fares To Come? I Think So!

I personally asked Alex during the Q&A about engaging with people just like you. There are those of us so passionate about travel, that we are on Facebook, Twitter and other places reading blogs and deal sites, looking for the next amazing holiday or trip. I expressed how passionate we are are about this topic (deals) and he mentioned an interest and desire to engage more with us tragic cases, running deals much like many of the very best Qatar Airways offers lasting only a few hours. I see this as a win-win. They fill seats that may have gone unsold otherwise, we get amazing deals and positive brand sentiment and engagement is created. I’lm always hunting!

Any other questions? Ask away…