More than a third of cabin crew staff on British Airways’ flights to Beijing and Shanghai soon will be fluent Mandarin speakers, as the airline looks to double the number of Chinese nationals serving passengers on its China routes.
The airline is currently undergoing a major recruitment drive, in which it is looking to recruit 26 cabin crew based in Beijing and 44 based in Shanghai, though a timeframe for the completion of the drive hasn’t been unveiled.
Once the drive has been completed, however, each of the airline’s 17 weekly flights to China will have four Mandarin-speaking Chinese nationals serving as cabin crew. From London Heathrow, British Airways currently operates 10 flights per week to Shanghai and one per day to Beijing, both flown by its Boeing 777 aircraft.
The move follows a number of initiatives rolled out by the airline aimed at facilitating travel for Chinese passengers, most notably introducing Mandarin-speaking customer service representatives at its Heathrow T5 hub.
“We appreciate our customers have a choice when they fly to and from the UK so we hope these changes, alongside the increase in the number of Mandarin-speaking customer service representatives at our home in Heathrow, will make their journeys as smooth as possible,” said Noella Ferns, British Airways executive vice president for Greater China.
Speaking at a roundtable held in Hong Kong last month, CEO Alex Cruz said he hopes the airline also will be able to introduce Alipay and WeChat Pay mobile payments this year.
Cruz also said British Airways’ Beijing and Shanghai routes are prime candidates for future deployment of the airline’s largest aircraft, the Airbus A380 superjumbo. Such a move, however, would be contingent on the airline acquiring additional A380s, something it has been unable to do so far.
“I wouldn’t rule out more A380s in our fleet in the future, but we haven’t been able to find the right agreement,” Cruz said. “Everybody knows we’re in the market.”
British Airways currently has 12 A380s in its fleet.