News & offers: Alex Cruz on BA, 50% Avios bonus, new BA centenary products & new buy on board

Alex Cruz on BA

Alex Cruz, BA’s Chief Executive, spoke at Skift travel industry forum this week and gave some insight into their route choices, particularly in the US. He indicated that BA were specifically looking at cities that were over a million inhabitants or more that currently have no direct flights to Europe. As a business strategy, this makes good sense as not only will BA have no competition but it will allow them to pick up passengers who wish to connect through to their European destinations if there are no direct flights. He indicated that they are still looking at new potential long haul routes. (I’m hoping for Portland personally – it’s a great city if you haven’t been).

Photo by Michael Trager of TravelZork

Cruz also talked about the much-maligned buy on board service. There was a lot of negativity when BA first withdrew food and drink in economy on short haul although it appears t be bedding in now.

He said: ‘If you have a perception that you are getting something for free, however bad quality or no-choice it is if you’re taking something away there’s a reaction.’

He acknowledged that the introduction had a few issues initially with passengers complaining that they had run out of popular items. This has now been rectified with attention being paid to how much stock they need of popular items. He believes that is still the right decision as so few European airlines now offer free food or drink in economy.

The move had originally come in response to BA trying to compete against the low-cost carriers on price. This along with trying to make the airline more profitable had led to a lot of criticism of Cruz when he first joined due to the number of cutbacks facing passengers.

 “When we started this new phase of British Airways, there were many decisions to be taken with regards to the direction of the company, and some of those decisions that were made early on were indeed probably less welcome than others,” Cruz said.

BA is investing $8.7 billion (£6.7 billion) in product improvements over the next few years, which includes new seats, food, lounges, and technology. Alex indicated that they were only around a third way through the changes.

“It’s a long journey; it’s only been three years, amazingly enough, but there is a great deal to do,” he said.

“A great deal of work went into that over a long period of time probably the last 20 years. Once we achieved that and we proved to our shareholders and we gave money back to our shareholders, the next logical thing to do was to go and ask for the money and get the money and invest in the passenger experience, which coincided with my arrivals,” he said.

More BA centenary products & new buy on board menu for short haul

BA buy on board

Earlier in the week I talked about the limited edition BA Marmite (which I have bought supplies of and will be offering in a giveaway soon). British Airways has now announced that it is partnering with more great British brands with the introduction of limited-edition food, drink and gifts.

From 1 May coffee lovers can go plastic free with an organic, fully compostable coffee bag from London based roasters, CRU Kafe, who have developed an exclusive three bean blend that will be available on short-haul flights in Euro Traveller for £5. BA has also launched a centenary edition afternoon tea including a scone, jam and clotted cream for a traditional cream tea in the air.

Edinburgh based gin distillers, Pickering’s, have created a gin that has been specifically developed to be enjoyed at altitude. The 10-botanical blend is available on all short haul flights and through the BA High Life shop as part of a trio pack. It is also great to see an English white wine, Chapel Down’s 2018 Bacchus, on the buy on board menu. The wine has been bottled exclusively for British Airways. If you have never tried Bacchus it is light fruity white wine in the same genre as Sauvignon Blanc.

The airline is also launching a handcrafted teddy bear by heritage bear-makers Merrythought. The collectable bear has been named Jarvis, after British Airways’ late museum curator, Paul Jarvis. This is a lovely tribute to a man that was a true BA expert. Many people I know that visited the museum spoke so highly of Paul. Jarvis Bear has been designed with an anniversary 100 emblem and styled with a vintage scarf.

If you fancy something very exclusive, you have the chance to buy a heart-shaped locket by Wales-based jewellers, Clogau, containing rare Welsh gold and limited to only 100 pieces. More of interest to me is a limited-edition Mulberry Bayswater tote in ruby red with a cobalt blue lining, along with a limited-edition scarf in Mulberry’s signature tree pattern in bright navy. Both items have been created to mark 100 years of the airline.

BA this week also launched their latest buy on board menu for short haul economy. Sadly if you are vegetarian and don’t eat cheese you will be out of luck for much to eat. The previous vegetarian sandwich selection pack has disappeared. In terms of hot food, it looks like the only options are the flatbread and porridge. The bacon sandwich has not made a comeback.

Mozzarella & Tomato Flat Bread (159g) £4.95 / 705 Avios
Chicken and Bacon sandwich (201g) £4.60 / 655 Avios
Honey Roast Ham and Farmhouse Cheddar Cheese sandwich (188g) £3.90 / 555 Avios
Cheddar Cheese Ploughman’s sandwich (206g) £3.60 / 515 Avios
Cashew nuts (70g) £1.60 / 230 Avios
Wasabi peas (50g) £1.60 / 230 Avios
Mature Cheddar and Red Onion Hand Cooked Crisps (40g) £1.15 / 165 Avios
Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar Hand Cooked Crisps (40g) £1.15 / 165 Avios
Maple Syrup Porridge (70g) £1.30 / 185 Avios
Fruit and nuts (70g) £1.60 / 230 Avios
Mediterranean Tapas Platter (119.5g)
(Not an M&S product)
£4.95 / 705 Avios

The main disappointment is the disappearance of Fever Tree Tonic. This seems odd given it is the tonic served onboard in Club Europe. Although I do like the sound of the cucumber tonic water. It is good to see the special Brewdogs 100 year BA beer available along with some English Bacchus wine from Chapel Down. I’m not sure about the Expresso Martini being pre-made so if you have tried it let me know what it’s like!

Cru Kafe Fresh Roasted Coffee (12 oz) £2.50 / 355 Avios
Love Cocoa Hot Chocolate (12 oz) £2.80 / 400 Avios
Teapigs Everyday Brew tea (12oz) £2.50 / 355 Avios
Teapigs Earl Grey Strong tea (12oz) £2.50 / 355 Avios
Teapigs Peppermint Leaves tea (12oz) £2.50 / 355 Avios
Teapigs Mao Feng Green tea (12oz) £2.50 / 355 Avios
Stojo Collapsible Cup (12oz) £10.00 / 1430 Avios
Coca Cola (330ml) £1.95 / 280 Avios
Diet Coke (330ml) £1.95 / 280 Avios
Sprite (330ml) £1.95 / 280 Avios
Harrogate Spring Still Water (500 ml) £1.95 / 280 Avios
Harrogate Spring Sparkling Water (500 ml) £1.95 / 280 Avios
Pip Organic Cloudy Apple juice (200ml) £2.70 / 385 Avios
Pip Organic Valencia Orange juice (200ml) £2.70 / 385 Avios
Big Tom Spiced tomato Juice (150 ml) £1.60 / 230 Avios
Schweppes Light Tonic Water (150 ml) £1.60 / 230 Avios
Schweppes Cucumber Tonic Water (150 ml) £1.60 / 230 Avios
Schweppes Golden Ginger Ale (150 ml) £1.60 / 230 Avios
Loveau Raspberry, Strawberry & Blueberry Infused Sparkling Water (330 ml) £2.00 / 285 Avios
Jimmy’s Iced Coffee Original Caffe’ Late (330 ml) £2.00 / 285 Avios
Mount Gay Rum (50 ml) £6.00 / 855 Avios
Tanqueray Gin (50 ml) £4.50 / 645 Avios
Johnnie Walker Red label Whisky (50ml) £4.50 / 645 Avios
Smirnoff Red Label Vodka (50ml) £4.50 / 645 Avios
Pickering’s Small Batch London Dry Gin (50ml) £6.00 / 855 Avios
Pickering’s Small Batch Raspberry Gin (50ml) £6.00 / 855 Avios
Jack Daniels Whisky (50ml) £4.50 / 645 Avios
Estini Espresso Martini (200 ml) £5.50 / 785 Avios
Pannier Brut NV Champagne (375 ml) £17.00 / 2430 Avios
Freixinet Italian Prosecco Doc (200 ml) £6.50 / 930 Avios
Dudley’s Stone South African Chenin Blanc Columbard (187ml) £4.60 / 655 Avios
Dudley’s Stone South African Cabernet Merlot (187ml) £4.60 / 655 Avios
Chapel Down English Bacchus (187 ml) £5.50 / 785 Avios
Camino Del Padre Spanish Organic Sauvignon Blanc (187 ml) £5.50 / 785 Avios
Grand Sud Reserve French Syrah Malbec (187 ml) £5.50 / 785 Avios
Brewdog Speedbird 100 IPA (330 ml) £4.45 / 635 Avios
Heineken Lager Beer (330ml) £4.45 / 635 Avios
Curious Session IPA (330 ml) £4.45 / 635 Avios

You can find the full new BA menu here.

50% bonus Avios when you purchase or gift Avios

British Airways has launched its latest buy Avios bonus offer. Executive Members who purchase or gift between 1,000 to 200,000 Avios get 50% bonus Avios on top.

The offer applies to Members who purchase or gift Avios by 21 May 2019 (23:59 BST).

At the same time, the purchase limit has temporarily increased to 200,000 Avios. This one is at the highest level we usually see for bonuses with a 50% bonus no matter how many you buy. You can buy a maximum of 200,000 Avios which would give you 300,000 Avios with the bonus for £3215.

So is it worth it? As usual, I won’t talk about how much an Avios is worth but look at what the Avios could buy you. We can see what you could do with a 2-4-1 BA Amex voucher and what you could do for a straight redemption.

If you used a 2-4-1 voucher then for 190,000 Avios, you could fly two people to Cape Town in First off-peak. 181,250 Avios (including the bonus) would cost £2015 to buy. If you were to buy these tickets, they would usually cost around £4000 per person from the UK. If you used Avios bought with the bonus, then it would work out at £1607 per person including around £660pp in fees and taxes.

The problem with this is that availability is scarce on the route so there is no guarantee you could use them. If we look at using the Avios without a voucher, you could get 2 Club World flights to the US West Coast for 250,000 Avios off-peak. This would cost £2815 for 253,750 Avios. At £1407 return this is a decent price although you do see this price on ex EU flights fairly often and even occasionally from the UK on a 6 months advance purchase deal.

Obviously, if you paid for a ticket, you would then get Avios and tier points as well. Overall it is rarely worth buying Avios for a whole ticket but now is a good time to purchase if you need a quick top up for something specific.

The BA Avios bonus page is here.

12 Comments on "News & offers: Alex Cruz on BA, 50% Avios bonus, new BA centenary products & new buy on board"

  1. With Bob, Alex Cruz has managed to devalue not just the BA brand but M&S too. Taking the Ploughman’s Sandwich as a yardstick, this costs £3.60 on BA as opposed to £2.30 in a M&S store (including at the airport). That’s a 56% mark-up for no real added-value. Savvy travellers will bristle at this and bring their sandwiches with them.

    • real value is getting to eat it up in the air at your convenience… it’s the same as cafes. I could have made a cup of coffee in my own house for a fraction of the price. But you pay for the convenience – if you suddenly felt like having coffee, the décor, etc at cafes unfortunately.

    • The price will never be the same as the supermarket, as the underlying costs of arranging and ferrying a specific stock to each plane, lifting the stock weight into the air, then hand-delivering it to your seat – are completely different. For quality vs. price, the M&S BOB still represents far better value than the heated cardboard offerings on EasyJet and Ryan Air.

      I don’t think BA will mind if people bring their own food – or better yet decide to eat in the lounge / airport eateries. It’s not like we expect a full trolley service selection at supermarket prices on 2 hr train journeys, why do we care when we don’t get it in the air?

      As someone who rarely takes the food offering on short-haul flights, I would see the food cart abolished than £30+ added to the return ticket.

  2. Barry Keith List | 3 May 2019 at 7:26 am | Reply

    Richard, couldn’t agree more. I go in M and S at the airport, stock up on pork pies and sausage rolls which they don’t serve on-board and consume them with the new beers.

  3. hmm – looking at the wikipedia list of US cities of population > 1 million, only San Antonio does not have a BA flight (or any EU connections). However, San Antonio is only an 80 minute drive from Austin which does have a BA flight.

  4. I’m more intrigued by the ‘compostable’ coffee bags – do they expect us to believe that they separate the rubbish into compostable, recyclable etc?

  5. What do you need to do to get a 2 4 1 voucher from Amex?

    • You need to take out a BA Amex and spend £10k for the premium paid card or £20k for the free card in a year.

  6. metabolicdietAdam | 3 May 2019 at 3:44 pm | Reply

    Surely he can’t mean cities with over 1 million inhabitants? There’s only 10 cities and would have thought all of them have direct flights to Europe already (someone has already pointed out only San Antonio doesn’t). Did he maybe mean over half a million inhabitants?

  7. He probably means “urban areas” as they are defined in the USA, when he speaks about cities of over 1 million inhabitants. If I am correct, then there are only 42 of them according to this list: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_urban_areas

    The ones without a direct flight to Europe are STL (20), ONT (22), PDX (24), CLE (25), SAT (26), SMF (28), ORF (34), MKE (35), CMH (36), JAX (40) and MEM (41). That’s 11 cities.

    Some of these are located very close to other cities already served by BA. ONT is near LAX, SAT is near AUS (as Kiran pointed out), CLE is close to PIT, and MKE is near ORD.

    SMF is near SFO, but so are SJC and OAK, and they both got flights, although the OAK was largely to compete with Norwegian and has been cancelled. SJC serves the Silicon Valley, which is the tech centre. I’d still say that SMF is probably a strong contender though.

    I agree with Michele that Portland, OR is an amazing place, and I think it’s likely that it will get one of the new flights. LH used to serve PDX from FRA, but with an A340-600. The economics of the 787 are much more advantageous.

    I guess we’ll see!

  8. Phil Duncan | 4 May 2019 at 1:57 pm | Reply

    Cruz continues to drive BA downhill. Nothing to see here, move along.

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