“We need to listen to the trade”: British Airways’ Robert Williams talks customer experiences

Edinburgh, United Kingdom. 13 July 2017 - Two airplanes of British Airways, one of them parked and another one heading to the runway, at Edinburgh's Airport.

British Airways recently announced a huge $8 billion in customer services over the next five years, with one billion alone going into their business class Club World.

As avid enthusiasts of anything that improves our comfort on long-haul flights, we decided to catch up with Robert Williams, British Airways’ head of sales for APAC and the Middle East to see what the airline is doing to improve customers experiences and how they decided where the money would go.

Williams told us a big chunk of that investment is going towards whopping 72 new aircraft, incorporating four different types.

“We’re gonna be introducing the A350, the 787-10 and then on our short-haul fleet, which is mainly flying we do around Europe and the UK, we’ll be getting new variants of the A320 and the A321 which are the Neo,” he said. 

“At the same time, we’ve been going through a very expensive refit of some of our existing aircraft. We’re refitting interiors of 128 of our aircraft and making sure we’ve got things like installation of seat power for all customers because that’s kind of a must now, and we’re rolling out next generation wifi.”

According to Williams, the airline has been focusing on making sure their wifi capabilities are the latest technology so customers can stream from their own devices.

“What we’ve found is that people do want to enjoy the entertainment that, we provide on board which we continue to do but if you’re in the middle of watching a series on one of your devices why wouldn’t you want to continue streaming that while you’re up in the air?

“We’ve significantly changed the catering proposition in the world traveller cabin which is our economy cabin, to make sure customers travelling on those longer flights with us are getting the catering they want and keeping them well fed and well entertained throughout the flight.”

One of the key parts of the investment is probably the one billion that went into their Club World offering.

“A significant part of that is that we’ve joined up with the White Company, which is a high-end luxury British lifestyle brand. We’ve teamed up with them to revolutionise the bedding side of business class in our Club World cabin.

“We’ve worked with the White Company to roll out these luxury pillows, duvets, mattress covers, day blankets, all provided to the customer is one pack for them to use as they want.”

Luxe blankets for optimum midflight napping? Sign us the heck up.


So why this big investment now?

“Competition is greater than ever,  we need to make sure that we stay at the top of our game,” Williams told us. 

So we need to make sure that we keep investing where customers want it most.

“We make sure we listen. And when people say sleep is important that’s where we invest, when people say food is important that’s where invest as well.

“It’s our duty to keep investing to make sure customers fly BA.”

Perhaps the most crucial thing in developing customer experiences is the airline’s relationship with the trade.

We need to make sure we listen to the trade,” Williams said. 

“We find out much through them about what customers in this market want and expect and that helps us make sure that what we’re offering is what we need to offer to be able to compete.

We build strong relationships with the trade and make sure that when we’re dealing with them we’re able to work in a professional and flexible way.”

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

    Latest comments
    1. How is replacing 30+ year old airframes investment in customer services? Or shrinking seat pitch on those new Airbus neos to BELOW RyanAir (the cheapest of the low costs in Europe) and ripping out 2 toilets to achieve this? Or that WiFi, currently available (at a substantial charge), (sometimes) on 5 of BA’s almost 260 strong fleet?
      This story is a PR job on what sadly has become one of the worst legacy carriers, who treat their customers with distain and nickel and dime for every extra (inc water on Regional / domestic / European flights)
      – an ex BA top tier frequent flyer In 2018 BA’s BeyondAbysmal services are BestAvoided because they are a #nationalembarrassment registered in and traded from Madrid so #flyABBA

british airways customer service investment Robert Williams

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