British Airways has its sights set on introducing mobile payments using popular Chinese platforms WeChat Pay and Alipay within this year.
Describing the introduction of Chinese mobile payment platforms as “a no brainer”, British Airways CEO, Alex Cruz, said that the airline’s parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), is currently working on ways to bring Alipay and WeChat Pay to its subsidiaries.
“We can’t do it fast enough,” Cruz said at a roundtable meeting held recently in Hong Kong. “IAG has some central IT, finance and procurement groups that are facilitating a number of initiatives, and one of these we have right now is how we can enable more payment systems – particularly the two biggest ones in China – so that all airlines in the group can benefit from it.
“I sincerely hope that we finally do it this year, because it makes a huge difference.”
In August last year, KLM became the first non-Chinese airline to accept ticket and ancillary payments using WeChat Pay.
British Airways has been stepping up its courting of Chinese customers in recent months, notably with the introduction of Mandarin-speaking customer service staff at London Heathrow Terminal 5 last November.
Cruz has also urged the UK government to ease visa restrictions for Chinese travellers visiting the UK, following the unveiling of its new codeshare agreement with Guangzhou-based China Southern Airlines.
“I’m upset every day that we don’t have the ability to actually facilitate payment for our Chinese customers through these platforms,” Cruz added.
“We have to be there. British Airways is not the biggest brand in China, and it never will be. But when Chinese people think about Britain, they need to think about British Airways. We need to be there and we need to be present as a brand.”