Routes Europe: BA boss Cruz tells industry of plans and challenges

posted on 23rd April 2018 by Jordan Newton
Routes Europe: BA boss Cruz tells industry of plans and challenges

Problems with Rolls Royce Trent engines on British Airways’ (BA) Boeing 787s are “causing a headache” to the carrier, chairman and chief executive officer Alex Cruz said today in Spain.

Last year, BA had to cancel a handful of 787 flights as repairs were needed and it left the carrier with an aircraft shortage as it was unable to meet all its scheduled services.

Speaking in a one-to-one interview with JLS Consulting’s director, John Strickland at Routes Europe in Bilbao he said BA is having meetings twice a day with Rolls Royce to overcome the issues.

Cruz said the airline has 26, 787s in its fleet out of about 300 aircraft and it is working hard to figure out how to meet capacity on the routes they service.

“It is a challenge and we sincerely hope Rolls Royce will solve this technical challenge as there are a lot of engines (in service),” he added.

The airline will also soon no longer have the legendary 747s to call on in its fleet as by 2024, Cruz said it will retire all of the aircraft. BA has refurbished some 777s, which are complete with new entertainment systems.

BA will also soon take delivery of Airbus A350s. Cruz said he was excited about this move and he added over the next few years it will look into how to add further widebody capacity.

The British carrier could also be in the market for more A380s, which would add to the 12 it utilises now. “If there are the right financial conditions for the A380s. IAG and BA would consider them, I am sure,” he said.

The carrier continues to expand at London Gatwick Airport and it gained slots that became available after Monarch Airlines dissolved.

Cruz said BA was really pleased to gain the slots and it is a great opportunity for the carrier to grow its network. The carrier has started utilising them with more short-haul leisure routes with Malaga the first to be added. He said BA will into what it can do next year, but needs to source aircraft to fly the routes first.

Adding new routes at Heathrow Airport has been difficult due to capacity constraints, but BA has managed to operate more by reducing frequencies on some services. “Everyone has ambitions to add more Heathrow routes,” he noted.

But Cruz said the airline is “committed” to adding more markets from Heathrow in both the short-haul and long-haul sectors.

He said a 3rd runway at Heathrow will lead to more UK and European airports being linked to the hub, but Cruz warned construction of a new runway must go hand-in-hand with a “neutral effect on taxes”.

The next 12 months are a big deal for BA, as it celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2019 and Cruz said it wants everything to be in the best possible place.

During his tenure in the last two years, BA has faced a number of challenges including the IT failure on Saturday, 27 May 2017, when the carrier had to stop all flights for six hours and 42 minutes, something Cruz remembers well.

Cruz said it has learnt from the failure: “We have done a great deal of work on our IT resilience and have more back-ups and improved the customer experience. A great deal of effort and investment has gone into it.”

Last year, BA was also met with criticism after it scrapped free food from its short-haul flights and passengers’ now have to pay for something from the M&S selection on offer.

Cruz said though the controversial decision was a “no-brainer” while the carrier found after a few months the customer satisfaction levels were back up and the decision has not impacted the business and it is committed to the model.

Long-haul economy food has though been invested in and brought back to full provision, which is something of a U-turn and Cruz said it has been well-received and it was about quality, not quantity, but BA will continue to offer “lots of free food”.

Investment and revamping of products is set to continue he noted with new plans for different classes including improving premium products and it is 1/5 to 2/5 of the way through a five-point plan. Club Europe class is also set to get a refresh before the end of the year, Cruz said.

He concluded that he is looking forward to the future but there are challenges: “People and technology are the biggest challenges we face at BA. I am looking forward though to many more years at BA.”

Routes Europe in Bilbao started yesterday (22 April) and finishes tomorrow (24 April) and is being attended by representatives from more than 100 airlines and 275 airports.