Flying to serve
Since taking the reins in January last year, Keith Williams has concentrated on rebuilding the British Airways brand, culminating in last summer’s much-lauded advertising campaign that made strong reference to BA’s heritage.
“The brand needed to recover from everything that had happened over the last three years – the [troubled] T5 opening, ash and snow disruption andindustrial action. But we needed operational stability,” he says.
“The industrial dispute went away and the stability was there. In 2011 we had our best operational performance.”
The “To Fly. To Serve” campaign revived BA’s 40-year-old motto and emphasised its core values. And efforts to get to know customers better are paying off, says Williams. “Our customer recommendation has gone up steadily over the last 15 months to the highest it’s been. There is still work to do, but we’re hopefully on an upward curve.”
The link with Iberia strengthens British Airways’ already impressive buying power, and will come into play as parent International Airlines Group negotiates the long-expected “big-twin” deal with Airbus and Boeing.
“We’ve got a large-aircraft [acquisition] programme and so has Iberia, so we’ll get a better buying capability by combining the two,” says chief executive Keith Williams.
This is the next phase of BA’s widebody fleet renewal process, and the order is being negotiated at “IAG level with input from BA”, adds Williams. The types under evaluation include the Airbus A350 and Boeing’s proposed enhanced “777-X” derivatives. In the interim, BA is taking eight 777-300ERs which are “partly a hedge on late deliveries” of the delayed 787s and A380s due from next year.
Williams says that with delivery schedules for the big twins it wants unclear, one option could be to take more -300ERs. “The problem is: is the next generation going to be so much more fuel efficient to make it worth waiting for? But I’m conscious of the fact that if you wait for something and it never turns up eventually you don’t have any aircraft.”