Service crew

Is BA CEO Sean Doyle’s email just lip service?

Since Sean Doyle took office, he has been keen to stress that his aim is to make BA a premium airline. (Well, the prices are at least mind-blowing!). This weekend he gave an interview to the Financial Times and emailed all members of the executive. Not everyone has received it yet so here it is in full:

To our loyal customers,

I am writing to you directly today in the spirit of transparency, which is the philosophy we strive to promote at British Airways in 2022 as we emerge from the worst crisis in our 102-year history.

We know that for many months we have been asking you to be patient with us. Wait while we bring back several planes from airfields around the world. Patient as we rebuild our network, retrain and recruit people to serve you better, and patient as we deal with the thousands of customers who need our help.

To be frank, we have moved from one set of restrictions to another and the amount of change we have faced over the past two years from week to week has been relentless. I don’t try to find excuses for things that should have gone better. What I do is make a personal commitment to you as we build a better British Airways. An airline you can rely on that offers excellent customer service, with someone always on hand to help. Most importantly, an airline you’re proud to fly with – an airline you’re proud of is your British flag carrier. For me, 2022 is the year we can finally rebuild and reinvigorate our airline. After recent news from the UK government about the removal of restrictions, it’s time to get Britain moving again.

My number one priority is to resolve customer call center issues that many of you have had and may still experience. In the face of complicated and ever-changing travel restrictions, the time it takes us to take calls has understandably been longer, which has lengthened our wait times. We are halfway through replacing our phone systems to create a better customer experience and are also already hiring more people to make sure your calls are answered, social media posts are answered and issues are resolved. resolved immediately, as far as possible.

We’ve worked hard to create a more premium experience for you, putting you first and doing it sustainably. Every aspect of this strategy is aimed at making your trip smoother and more enjoyable. For example, our operational teams are working on a new baggage tracking system, allowing you to track your baggage via your phone throughout your trip. We know you appreciated the table ordering service we started offering in our lounges during the pandemic, and so we are continuing this initiative. You also told us that you appreciate the free water and snacks we offer on short-haul flights in our Euro Traveler cabin, so we will continue to offer these as well. Additionally, we are working hard to improve the quality of meals and choices we serve in all cabins and roll out our Club Suite to as many aircraft as possible, as quickly as possible.

We know that change starts from within. Our teams across the airline have been through a lot, and I’m looking at what we need to do to recognize and reward the people we know are making a difference in your journey, and ensure they have everything they need. to feel empowered to do good through you every day.

I know this change won’t happen overnight, but this week I briefed teams across the airline to do whatever they need to do to address the issues we are facing so that we don’t let you down. In the meantime, I want to thank you for staying with us. I know your loyalty has been tested and I want to assure you that we never take it for granted.

I hope that in the coming months you will notice a significant shift towards a better BA, driven by our people to provide a better experience to you, our most loyal customers.

Before giving my opinion on the announcements, I would like to say that I am the highest status you can get on BA as a gold guest list. This year I plan to maintain this status and book a number of BA flights. I am loyal to BA currently but as Sean says himself, that patience is being tested. However, I appreciate his honesty and his recognition that things could be better, which is rare from a CEO. I also like that he actually sent the communication.

Here are my thoughts on what he touched on:

Call center wait times and social media

Yes, these are quite shocking. It is very difficult for many people to get a BA even with Gold status and BA vacations are often even worse. Sean says they are hiring more staff, but to me that misses the point. I’m sure I speak for the majority of people when I say I would much rather you automate everything as much as possible for those who want it.

We all lead busy lives and have better things to do than hold the phone. They could bring back all pre-pandemic online options, convert all old vouchers that can’t be used online to e-vouchers. I wish they would go even further and automate even more if possible! Being able to add a rematch to a 2-4-1 and correctly calculate the taxes would save their staff a huge amount of time.

Even if there was only one form to fill out for non-urgent requests, that would be a start. I would also like to see a proper chat function that works properly. Throughout the pandemic I have changed my Finnair flights only through the Finnair chat function which has been very helpful. While BA is moving to a new phone system. Although BA has a chat system, it doesn’t work half the time and is limited on what it can do.

“A more premium experience”

Sean says he wants to “help make your journey smoother and more enjoyable”

Let’s see what he mentions here:

  • Working on a new baggage tracking system, allowing you to track your baggage via your phone throughout your trip. AA had this fir a while
  • The table order service in the lounges continues
  • Free water and snacks for the Euro Traveler cabin continue
  • Improve the quality of the meals and choices we serve in all cabins and
  • Deploy our Club Suite on as many aircraft as possible, as quickly as possible.

Points 2 and 3 are things they have been doing for a long time. Overall I think the salons are doing well and the Concorde Room has upped its game over the last few weeks to offer a more premium menu which is nice to see. Baggage tracing has been talked about for a long time. It’s a good thing for me to have because I think there are more pressing issues.

The key for me at the moment is the service on board.

Club Suite

Before the pandemic, I used to forgive BA for not having the best business class or first class compared to other airlines because you could get decent deals on sales or booking a long time ago. advance. Most of that is gone now with the highest prices I’ve seen since I started blogging in the US and Canada in particular. Apparently BA considers they can charge a premium due to new club seats and demand. But they miss the point, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve booked a club suite to get it changed closer to time. I do not pay a premium for a seat that I may not have!

BA B777 Club World Seat

BA B777 former Club World saddle

Food is definitely an issue and I’m glad to see Sean mention it. Although the majority of the food tastes good, it smells cheap. There is no element of luxury or “premium” in most meals. The menus seem to consist of what I would consider pub grub, sausages and mash, cottage pie, pasta and roast with a curry option if you are lucky. None of this sounds good to me.

The one-platter option in Club is also gritty. The crew doesn’t want to go back to full service because it’s extra work. So we are still using the #covidexcuse long after many other airlines are back to almost normal. Do you remember the days when you had a starter and a side salad?

Club World meals in December

The problem with a separate platter is that there isn’t much room, so in effect you are getting a short haul Club Europe meal in terms of volume and starters/desserts. Just look at the starter below which consists of a few pieces of lettuce, two pieces of avocado and half a cherry tomato!

The only area I think they do well in is wine and drinks at Club Europe and First. These are usually pretty premium, so I’d like to see that continue. I also like the cocktails on board but wish they were changed more frequently.

Regarding the drinks, I would like the pre-departure drinks to come back properly instead of the ad hoc service that seems to be happening now.

A particularly mediocre starter

It will be interesting to see what he calls “picks” being improved. I hope this means that you will again have the choice of a starter and a choice of desserts as before.

Sean told the Financial Times “Putting the premium proposition at the heart of what we do is going to be key,” he told the Financial Times at BA headquarters near Heathrow. “We want people to walk out of a British Airways flight and talk about it as if it’s something different.” Unfortunately at the moment, we often talk about it because it’s different but not in a good way!

“Sean was not hired to make fundamental changes,” an IAG insider said according to the Financial Times. Well, Sean, you need to make some changes now! Most of what I’ve heard and seen lately is a lot of talk about being a premium airline, but not a lot of action except the deadline for B777 Club Suites to be installed by the end of the year.

Conclusion

The jury is still out for me. As they say, the proof is literally in the pudding!

How do you feel about traveling with BA at the moment? Did you enjoy Sean’s email? What should they improve? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.