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Yesterday I wrote an open letter to British Airways CEO Alex Cruz. He graciously took the time to respond via email and publicly in the comment section of my initial letter, so take a peek at his extensive comments and then pop back here for my rebuttal. 

Mr. Alex Cruz, Chairman And CEO Of British Airways,

First, WOW. Your finger is on the pulse and you’re not hiding. That’s so rare and something I find highly laudable. Answering directly without some fabricated press jargon or an email from one of your staffers is just absurdly cool in today’s world. Second, I owe you an apology. I had no business asking for you to move on. You’re right- you’ve been there, done that and you’re clearly a top guy in the business. I’d like to offer your detailed response a far more constructive response than my somewhat crass first letter, which was far too focused on your career and not enough about present day British Airways, the airline we know and love.

Your Thoughts On “Not” Being A Budget Airline Don’t Align With Customer Sentiment…

I’ll launch into specifics shortly, but more people than I could’ve ever imagined commented on my letter (via Facebook) saying that things are feeling budget. Even if your customers aren’t technically right, that’s the way many feel. That sentiment is meaningful and little gestures could fix that, especially as low cost carriers aim to raise amenities. Like tea. Get a marketing deal done with a tea maker, bring it back, get some water thrown in and you instantly lock in your quintessentially British branding while keeping your buy on board offerings. From your data points I’ll concede buy on board is the right move. One last thought: HOOU “have one on us” digital drink/food coupons for elite frequent flyers…

You Mention The Ability To “Upgrade” Differentiates You From Budget. Double Down On That…

The only thing major media outlets ever ask me for is upgrade tips. It’s because EVERYONE wants one yet no one ever seems to get them. Make it easier for passengers to use Avios for upgrades by making additional seats available for upgrade, especially as flight dates close in. Why not even make upgrades available on board too? Your competitors already do it and you could create excellent value for your club members who find completely “free” flights difficult.

You Say Short Haul Business Class Separates You From Budget Carriers, But You Barely Have One. So Make One.

It’s hard to call a seat which is identical in size, shape and legroom to the offering found in economy, “business class”. Yes, I get that the efficiencies in the airport are good, but budget carriers have those “fast track” privileges now too. Minus lounges it’s hard to discern the finer points, and to your point of “price”, it’s consistently inflated in this cabin. No one is looking for a re invented wheel here, just something with considerable legroom, extra padding and food worth tucking into.

You Talk About Price Being The Driving Force In Investing In Customers. Let’s Have Fun With That…

REAL Flash sales. Do you know how many happy people I made when one of your competitors intentionally offered $640 round trip business fares to Tokyo? I know, that’s not a sustainable price point, but they only did it for three hours, so only the most engaged customers could get in. These flash sales create brand excitement and a term I frequently used in music, “stickiness”. People would be glued to BritishAirways.com (and hopefully my site) if you started getting festive with your fares. We all love a bit of fun. If you say price, we want price.

You Say You’d Be Budget If You Didn’t Have The Executive Club. That’s Not Enough. Make It Great…

A club is only as good as the value derived, and I think we can both agree that there’s room for improvement. My buy 10 get 1 free coffee card is no good if I can’t ever use it. Find me a person who feels that there are enough seats released for the flights they want and I’ll pluck you a unicorn straight out of the sky. People see loyalty as their ticket to exceptional experiences, not a few bucks off their next (high) priced ticket. Keep the dream alive and you will keep people flying and swiping (with their BA credit cards). Keep making the app easier to use, it’s improved and can really go even further as “mobile” becomes king.

You Say The British Airways Amex Partnership Separates You? Let’s Be Real Here…

This partnership is NOT a hand out to consumers nor does it separate you from being budget. Southwest Airlines, the low cost U.S. budget carrier has a similar partnership and people can use their loyalty points on any flight any time! This Amex partnership is an incredibly lucrative ancillary revenue stream where you make money without flying planes and its success would only be enhanced by creating a more compelling value for Avios holders. A nifty example is that partnership you did with Chase last year. That was brilliant.

You Mention Connecting Itineraries. I Like That. Why Not Connect People With Their Bags Too?…

Connecting itineraries are good, and I’m glad you offer them, but there are many reasons controllable and otherwise why travelers need to book separate itineraries. Your airline is among the least friendly here. Though OneWorld officially ended it’s interline policy many carriers still happily check bags onto the next carrier or next itinerary, even if it does not immediately benefit them. Refusing to do so seems short sighted, unfriendly to your alliance and inflexible to modern customer needs. It’s better to have a slice of the pie than none of it, so just be cool here.

You Mention Investment In Wifi, Lounges, And Check In. Tell Us, Then WOW Us…

Genuinely excited about you sharing these details, would love to cover them, but that doesn’t sell tickets. Most people just want to see them in action. I’m excited to see what you’ve got up your sleeve, but as you say these exciting future things needs better communication, before the people who might make use of them or buy tickets to experience them disappear for good. I once had a PC, but they lost me. Right now there’s no great wifi, no world class lounges and passengers don’t make decisions on future promises. I hope you nail it. Truly.

You Mention Investing In Us. Do So By Holding Your Entire Staff To The Level Which We Hold Pilots…

A large consensus of customer complaints I see about your airline are in regards to service. Focused, polite, detailed and polished standards of service offered by your competitors are not boding well. You wouldn’t accept “hit or miss” pilots to join the ranks of the Speedbird elite, so I’d love for you to invest extra time and money in polishing your crews and ground staff to beat your competition. That doesn’t cost nearly as much money as new seats and smiles are worth at least a million bucks, even ones with strange teeth…

British Airways Needs BOLD, Swift Moves. You Clearly Move That Way…

Find a way to balance “cheerful” sentiment and price. You’d be surprised how much that cup of tea could make you stand out, really bringing the British “flag” into your flag carrier role. Those little things are like the terroir which make the be
st wines so unique and highly regarded. You genuinely made my day with your email. Your insights were meaningful and your distinctions have made for great constructive thought from my readers and I. I’m just a sounding board. Find a way to bring the cheerful feeling, British branding and innovative products along for the ride and I’ll be there the whole way.

With Great Hope & Respect, Your New Email Pal,

Gilbert Ott

Being reasonable, is there anything else you’d like for Mr. Cruz to take note of while he’s being so generous with his time? Should I apply for a job on his product team?

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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8 Comments

  1. An additional point – loading enough food for customers, not just BoB shorthaul but also longhaul… We booked and paid expecting to be fed, not to literally arrive hungry because you wanted to save £2 on a £2000 fare! Water is only the extreme example of this
    Fix the IFE esp on l.onghaul over 8hrs
    And clean the damned planes! No one likes to sleep in half an inch of crumbs or face a seat / table stained with wine / coffee
    Lastly, if the strategy is really to be able to lower costs, then do it, even without the hidden baggage and seat choice charges BA simply does not compete with LCCs on price (yet?)

  2. I agree that BA have an image to protect and need to work harder to retain the loyalty of their customers.

    Our current disappointing experience is concerning seat selection travelling with young children, Long Haul Business Class to Australia.

    We are Bronze Executive Club members but we cannot select seats until 7 days before the flight. The Business Class seat layout is such that the rows D and E are the only ones in which you can care for 2 and 4 year children. What happens if we leave it till 7 days before the flight and all the row D and E seats have been allocated. BA say they will do their best to find suitable seats but at the same time say they cannot force other passengers to move.

    We have been given the option of booking seats earlier at a cost of £85 each so a total of £425 extra.

    I have suggested that they should be free for parents who have no choice if they are going to look after their children during the flight and try to minimise inconvenience to other passengers. This would be no different to the policy for disabled passengers.

    My point of view has been totally dismissed by the Customer Services agent in Newcastle who has gone out of his way to be unhelpful. He even refused to pass my concerns on to his manager.

    I eventually had a call from Customer Services after l copied my emails to Alex Cruz. Their response was a lot more understanding but of course rules are rules. The only concession is that they will put forward a suggestion to reduce the cost for young children.

    My view is that there should be no extra charge as it is a discriminatory policy that allows one category of passenger to have to pay for something that others get for free. Adults can sit in any seat and they will still be able to eat and drink and be looked after, children cannot because of the seat configuration provided by BA.

  3. I agree with you about the Customer Service team. I have an onging complaint with BA, I have received far from customer service . I would need to be desprate for a flight before I would use BA in future..

  4. Is it really necessary to comment on a cabin crews teeth!!!!
    The cabin crew hate Alex Cruise .
    My daughter is cabin crew and works hard very hard she loves flying and goes out of her way to assist passengers .
    She helps mothers and babies lends her iPad out when the entertainment is down the list is endless
    I’m going to be blunt yes there are older crew out there but mixed fleet have older crew too
    My daughter has been refused part time the reason they cannot recruit caliber of staff !
    Well BA look after your staff and the rest will fall into place .You don’t have to be a CEO to know that

  5. Please may I have Mr Cruz email address? I have an issue – BA have cancelled our tickets due to system error with SkyScanner/Travelbag EG ticket prices were too low. Rather than honour the tickets and there mistake, they are chosen to cancell everyones tickets and we have to rebook them at a higher price – not very customer friendly – we are soo upset !!! i wish to write to him personally. I have tried alex.cruz@ba.com, but to date not received a reply…:(

    1. Alex Cruz doesn’t engage or respond to us mere customers……

      I have 105 emails circulating about my complaint….. he’s been copied on half of them

      Not a sniff of customer service…..

  6. and a year on, planes are still filthy, BA continue to despise customers have failed to improve customer service and persist in charging for everything inc. water Oh but they’ve introduced densified cabins which on flights of upto 5 hours offer lower pitch than RyanAir. We’re still waiting for WiFi and the lauded investment in product is yet to materialise on the vast majority of routes.
    #flyABBA

  7. BA sacked a steward three days before Xmas 2018 after he asked the company to explain why senior manager was on far right Britain first website and ticking likes on her Facebook page against blacks and Muslims.
    BA have done everything to protect this racist manager.
    It’s now going to court.
    Britain first airways.

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