Is British Airways back?

I can think of only one other major global carrier — ahem, United Airlines — that has received as much criticism over the past five years. Loyal customers have complained as British Airways’ new CEO, a veteran of two low-cost carriers, gutted some of what made the airline special.

The new CEO, Alex Cruz, said he had no choice. He was hired in 2016 to ensure British Airways could compete against low-cost carriers and to make the century-old company more efficient and innovative. That meant shaking things up.

Cruz removed free food and reduced legroom on short-haul flights. He also added seats to some wide-body aircraft, reducing shoulder space for many passengers. His reputation further took a hit as the airline struggled through technology issues, including a massive 2017 computer system outage and a significant data breach last year.

But British Airways is getting some swagger back. The airline is making money, and it is investing in its onboard and airport product. This week, the airline announced a new business class seat with a sliding door for privacy.

Not all is perfect. The airline has alienated loyal customers and employees who want to know why the carrier cannot regain some of its past magic. A former CEO even tweaked Cruz to the Financial Times, saying the airline “has slipped quite substantially down the rankings.”

But maybe British Airways no longer needs to be the World’s Favourite Airline. Instead, it probably should have two priorities. One, to compete with European low-cost carriers on price, while providing a slightly elevated product. And two, on long-haul routes, to provide a consistent premium service, like Air Canada, Delta Air Lines, and Lufthansa.

What do you think?

— Brian Sumers, Senior Aviation Business Editor [bss@skift.com, @briansumers]

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British Airways Updates Its Business Class Seat and Adds a Privacy Door: British Airways was the first airline to create a lie-flat business class seat. But its design had not been updated in years, and it has not been competitive for a while. The airline needed an upgrade. The bad news? It’ll take a long time before a good portion of the fleet has new seats.

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Contact Me

Skift Senior Aviation Business Editor Brian Sumers [bss@skift.com] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send him an email or tweet him.

Photo Credit: The new British Airways Club suite. British Airways is investing in its passenger experience. British Airways