The Chief Executive of British Airways, Alex Cruz, says that he sees customer approval ratings for Buy on Board improving, and technology problems with the introduction of the new service are being solved.
Speaking at the Hangar 51 technology event, Mr Cruz admitted that there have been challenges with the introduction of the new technology, but they are being overcome.
For more details on the event where the interview took place, as well as the new technology initiatives being introduced across the IAG group of airlines, see
Alex Cruz interview
How important is technology to the roll out of new products such as Buy on Board?
Incredibly important. All of our passengers today are being trained by start-ups like the ones that have presented to us today in terms of their expectations. “I want it faster, I want it quicker, I want it easier, I want it safe and secure”. That mindset has always existed in the travel industry, but when you put it into practice you have slow websites, slow apps, slow experiences. So to be able to breathe in the air of innovation of this kind of start-up and incorporate some of this technology into what we have to offer customers is perfect. Because most of our customer base and most of the travellers out there are increasingly expecting these sort of experiences. There’s no doubt.
But you can’t respond individually if someone doesn’t get their sandwich on board or the payment system fails.
Perhaps not individually, no, but what BA has been doing for a long time is segmenting the problems so they can be addressed, and segmenting the experiences so they can be addressed. We can’t ultimately respond to every kind of inquiry – eventually technology might get us there, but I can’t see it just yet. But to be able to segment is possible, and the analytics that you’ve seen today show a way of addressing problems that are coming up. It allows us to have access to that data and the ability to see where the problems are and how important they are to people, so that’s an attractive proposition. I think it will be a long time before technology allows us to address everything for everyone, but when it comes to addressing what’s most important to people, then we are making inroads on doing that.
How confident are you that you will overcome the technology problems of Buy on Board?
Every single technology hurdle that has come up within British Airways over the years has been dealt with. When it comes to individual, small devices [such as the on-board handheld payment devices], then the problems are solved in days. When it comes to big problems with networks and main frames sometime it takes weeks. From the day we went live with the Flight system at Heathrow to where the problems came down to just a few, then it took a few weeks, yes. The mindset is there addressing the hurdles behind the scenes, but it depends on the actual problem that it is. Smaller things, web related, are fast to solve. Big mainframe things used by multiple airlines tend to be slow.
And Buy on Board?
We already have some technology to take a look at every single transaction that takes place inside of the airplane on board. We analyse it every day, then twice a week on top of that, and it’s given us tremendous visibility on their spending habits, their waiting times, the availability of items, the amount of stock not consumed. And it has allowed us to immediately react. There were stock changes in the second week and we’re on the tenth week now. It has been refined over and over again, and that process will continue. We are missing a magic piece of learning or a box for throwing all this data in and out come up with the perfect solution. You have to remember we started with this on January 11, but some of our competitors started on this 20 years ago. We won’t need 20 years before we get it nearly perfect, but we need a few more weeks. But yes, we are using technology to understand what the passengers think about the service and the service is working.
And customer satisfaction?
We measure customer satisfaction every day, we have gone through three cycles of generic customer feedback [to measure satisfaction before Buy on Board and after] to see how it is going and we are seeing improvements. We know it’s a change of model. But to stick with the theme, we are using technology to improve – we went contactless for this so people could use cards such as American Express, and that’s one example of the ways we are improving the experience.