British Airways unveiled a number of initiatives as part of its £7 billion transformation plan taking place over the next two years, with approximately £750 million dedicated to the company’s IT infrastructure .

The initiatives were unveiled at a British Airways Showcase event in London on 4 March and attended by the carrier’s Chairman and CEO Sean Doyle.

We reported on the first batch of updates here:

British Airways unveils cabin upgrades, free messaging and route resumptions to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok

On the subject of digital transformation, Doyle commented:

“We want to make sure the digital experience is not just as good as everybody else but actually leapfrogs them and is actually better than anybody out there.”

The airline plans to launch a new website and mobile app offering “deeper personalisation”, with initial changes rolling out by the end of the year.

The new browser is currently in BETA testing and will offer passengers the opportunity to make changes to their journey online rather than having to call a customer care centre.

BA said it will be able to text customers hotel and food vouchers to customers if their flight is delayed or cancelled, so that they don’t have to find accommodation themselves.

Colm Lacy, British Airways’ chief commercial officer, added:

“One of the key focuses that we’re looking at is not just the ability to rebook on our own flights, but actually if your flight has been cancelled then we’ll have the ability for you to book online on other carriers. That is a gamechanger for us.”

Machine learning and AI 

The airline is also investing £100 million in machine learning, automation and artificial intelligence across its operation for services such as booking, baggage handling as well as speeding up departures and responding to disruption. British Airways is also using new tools to help predict delays and analyse real-time weather.

On the operations side, Doyle commented:

“You can transform a lot of things around an airline but if your operation isn’t delivering the basics then you’re not going to get very far. You can have a great onboard experience [and] the crew can be in fantastic form but if the planes are running late then you have a problem.

“We have put a huge focus on operational resilience and punctuality, and fair to say I think over the last three months we’re making good progress. Our average departure punctuality at Heathrow for the last couple of months has been 80 per cent. We’ve been better than the average of all the other carriers at the airport and that’s a significant turnaround from where we were maybe six months ago.”

During the BA showcase, we also spoke to the proactive customer care team who connect with the crew in the air via Microsoft Teams to resolve issues that customers might experience in the air before they land at their destination.

Sustainable operations

The airline also provided an update on its sustainability measures, laying emphasis on the modernisation of its fleet with fuel-efficient planes which are “20 to 40 per cent more efficient than the ones we are retiring”.

Doyle commented:

“We took the brave move to retire all of our 747s back in 2019, we’re replacing those with fuel efficient planes which are better for the bottom line, but more importantly much better for the carbon footprint.”

He also spoke of the importance of Sustainable Aviation Fuel:

“A big pillar of our plans as well is sustainable aviation fuel… We’re ahead of the game in terms of securing SAF but we do need policy to build more SAF production here in the UK.” 

Last week the airline’s parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG) announced its largest SAF purchase agreement to date with e-SAF (power-to-liquid) producer ‘Twelve’, which will supply advanced e-SAF made from carbon dioxide, water and renewable energy to support IAG’s five European airlines, including British Airways.

IAG to purchase 785,000 tonnes of eSAF

British Airways added that the team are working on electrifying the operation – from electric vehicles at Heathrow to the elimination of single-use plastics and investment in innovation in the form of an equity stake with hydrogen-electric aviation solutions firm Zeroavia.