British Airways’ Citiexpress division is adopting a budget airline formula. The loss-making regional division, which serves both domestic and international routes, is being rebranded as one-class BA Connect from March 26. Business class is scrapped and so too are existing perks like free food and drinks.
BA says the move is in response to customer demand and that it has carried out extensive research through the UK regions before coming to this decision.
The upside is that ticket costs will tumble by an average of 40% with seats being priced on a two-tier basis. Connect tickets will cost from £25 one-way with Connect Plus tickets (these allow lounge access and penalty free changes) priced from £110 one-way. Both tariffs grant FFP mileage.
Snacks and drinks will now be available on a “paid for” basis and the cheaper Connect fares still allow changes but at £30 a time. BA says that it will be placing two million Connect fares on sale over the coming year so there will be availability on all routes.
Exceptions are BA’s services from London City to Edinburgh, Frankfurt and Geneva which are operated by Citiexpress. These continue to offer a traditional two-class service with free catering albeit with today’s pricing. Says BA Connect commercial director Steve Cassidy, “That’s appropriate and relevant for the London City routes. We’ve taken that decision for the sake of consistency as we’ve found BA passengers flying to and from London may arrive at Gatwick or Heathrow and depart from City or vice versa.”
BA Connect operates mainly from Birmingham, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh to a variety of cities in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Austria, Norway, Belgium and Switzerland.
It’s not clear whether this new strategy will succeed. BA Connect’s fleet consists of smaller 49 to 110-seater planes whereas successful budget carriers like Easyjet and Ryanair operate larger jets holding 150-180 seats. Steve Cassidy denied this would be a problem, “We had nine different plane types in 2001 and now we have three. We think it’s a good blend of aircraft for the type of routes we fly. It allows us to offer business people six flights a day on regional links like Manchester-Belfast City.”
Bookings for BA Connect open on February 1.
For further information go to www.ba.com
Report by Alex McWhirter