Expansions and improvements ahead for British Airways

Takeover roumours are just rumours

Several changes at British Airways will see the airline emerge fitter and stronger in its continued efforts to stay at the top.

Among them are younger new additions to its fleet, more routes, the addition of a new terminal, a new subsidiary and a wide upgrade of services.
BA CEO Willie Walsh told TTN in Jordan, “We are expanding our long haul fleet by ordering four Boeing 777-2000 ER to be delivered in 2009, four Boeing 777-200 ER to be delivered in 2010. The first aircrafts to be replaced will be 20 Boeing 747s and 14 Boeing 767s. This will help us expand our long haul fleets. To make long haul flights more comfortable last year we unveiled the new generation business class flat beds. We will also be offering enhancements to our first class cabin and on-demand in-flight entertainment system in every cabin across long haul fleet.”
British Airways set the industry benchmark with the launch of the first flat bed for business customers in 2000, he added, a position that is strengthened by their new Club World flatbed. “Our premium cabins are our most profitable segment and we are re-configuring our aircraft to increase Club World capacity by eight per cent, moving from 38 to 52 seats on some of our Boeing 747 aircraft. The final touches to a refresh of British Airways’ First class will be offered on our longhaul aircraft.”
BA has also expanded its operations at the London City airport by more than 70 per cent with the launch of its new subsidiary BA CityFlyer. The new carrier is to operate 250 flights a week from the Docklands airport to six destinations in the UK and Europe this month. At the moment, the airline operates 144 flights a week out of London City.
New routes include a new service from Gatwick to Port of Spain in Thailand and Tobago, flights to Calgary in Canada from London Heathrow, flights from Gatwick airport to Salzburg. Moreover, BA has increased its flights from Heathrow to New York and Sao Paulo. The BA CityFlyer recently began new direct routes to Glasgow and Zurich, each served four times a day. Destinations also include Frankfurt, Madrid and Milan.
With the UK emerging as one of the most travelled to destinations from the Middle East, British Airways which operates 49 weekly flights from the Middle East to London Heathrow, has revealed its dedicated Terminal 5 at the UK’s principal airport will open on March 27, 2008. 
Now British Airways which serves around 30 million passengers a year will have an exclusive new home. “68 million passengers will fly through Heathrow this year in ageing terminal facilities designed to accommodate around 45 million. When T5 opens and 30 million passengers move out of existing terminals and for the first time we will have space to breath in the central terminal area. By 2012, we aim to have either re-built or redeveloped our existing facilities and returned Heathrow to its rightful status as the world’s leading international airport. We will be proud to welcome the world’s Olympians through our gates,” said Tony Douglas, chief executive officer, BAA Heathrow.
The T5 complex features 60 new aircraft stands, two satellite buildings (the second to be completed by 2010), rail links to London Underground and Heathrow Express, a new multi-storey car park and extensive landscaping. 
Is all this new development taking place because there might be some truth to rumours that Emirates wants to take over BA? “These are simply rumours,” Walsh told TTN, “as Emirates has already denied these in the press.”
Further expansion plans into the region will need to wait until the airline get new aircraft, he added. Till then British Airways operates 21 weekly flights from the UAE, a twice daily service from Dubai International and a daily service from Abu Dhabi International  to London Heathrow.
Asked what other full-service carriers can  learn from BA's battle with budget carriers, Walsh said: “The most important lesson is that you have to restructure your business and address every aspect of it. It is important to be more efficient and be more relevant to our customers in a way that would offer them a product at a price they would want to pay. There are a lot of costs to be eliminated. Companies can learn a lot about restructuring and serving their customers.”
By Maysa Zureikat