In a speech at the Royal Aeronautical Society in London British Airways CEO Alex Cruz declared that ‘the main threat to BA’s future’ is the airline’s employees.
He’s been forced to walk that back and clarify his remarks on an internal website,
Cruz said that “there truly is only one thing that will stop us from becoming the best airline in the world: us”. He allegedly goes on to say that everyone must work together, embrace change and support one another.
It’s certainly true that British Airways staff have real challenges delivering service, I find their cabin crew to be mostly indifferent especially senior flight attendants from their Worldwide fleet that’s paid more and has greater seniority than their Mixed Fleet crews.
However it’s decisions by leadership that create the greatest threats. British Airways service has been… British.. for many years. What’s different are changes that have transformed BA into something closer to a low cost carrier over the past three years and changes to product have tracked with declining consumer perception.
Indeed British Airways revealed a little over a year ago that perception of the airline had fallen to the same level as United — in the immediate aftermath of United’s PR debacles which included their passenger dragging incident.
At the investor day in the fall for the airline’s corporate parent they identified the damage to their brand as also creating the greatest upside for them.
British Airways says they’re already well-positioned on schedule and price, and essentially the fact that their brand is at a nadir presents an opportunity because it can get better (“more value can be captured”).
Cruz’s comments that the greatest threat to the airline comes from themselves is accurate, but the threats come more from management than from employees. Unquestionably the airline would benefit from holding crew accounting for providing even average levels of service, but that’s difficult to do when crew are given mixed messages about what the airline is trying to be and trying to deliver to customers.
Credit: British Airways
There’s a huge opportunity with the carrier’s impending business class refresh to truly be a world class airline for premium customers, but decisions across the airline have to recognize that the London-based airline’s bread and butter is business travel and gear all of the carrier’s product and service decisions towards meeting the needs of its customers.