BA held a press event yesterday for a select number of travel journalists and bloggers (though someone at The Daily Telegraph clearly did not get an invitation).
Under the curious title of “#BAInvesting4U” journalists were ferried from London Gatwick to London Heathrow via a three and a half four flight on a brand new Boeing 787-900.
The whole event was something of a rearguard action in response to negative press coverage and a narrative of cut backs and service failures.
In truth much of what was announced today is known already: BA has opened new lounges at Gatwick, a new security channel for First Class passengers and BA Executive Club Gold Cardholders at London Heathrow, it’s adding WiFi and revamping its Club World service with a new seat to come with the Airbus A350 in 2019.
You can read BA’s take on yesterday’s announcements at ba.com
One point that did catch our attention is BA’s new lounge refurbishment programme.
In recent years, BA has refurbished lounges in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, Dubai, Singapore and Washington (the latter two are pictured below).
BA has also in the past few weeks opened new lounges at London Gatwick’s South Terminal and at Boston. The latter has been very well received in particular.
Last year, BA also announced a refurbishment of its New York JFK Terminal 7 which will encompass not only refurbished lounges but also new check-in and security screening areas.
BA CEO Alex Cruz also confirmed yesterday:
- BA is to refurbish its “Galleries” lounge complex at London Heathrow which comprises no less than eight separate lounges
- In the UK, BA is to refurbish lounges at Aberdeen and Manchester airports
- In mainland Europe, BA is to refurbish lounges in Geneva and Rome airports
- In the USA, BA is to refurbish lounges at Chicago, Miami and San Francisco airports
- BA is to also refurbish its Johannesburg lounge
It’s important to note that no specific timescales have been given for all lounges. Aberdeen and Rome are due to take place in 2018 and should complete by the spring. New York JFK will take place over the next two years. The refurbishment of the remaining lounges are likely to take place over many years.
However, a few thoughts spring to mind:
1. It’s encouraging to see BA investing in its lounges in the UK
This particularly the case for Manchester given the lounge was reduced in size after BA downsized its presence at Manchester. Once the Aberdeen and Manchester lounges have been refurbished, this would leave the Newcastle lounge as the only BA operated UK lounge in the “Terraces” format that (we think) dates from the late 1990s.
2. It’s also encouraging to see BA maintaining lounges in Europe
It’s also encouraging to see more lounge refurbishments in mainland Europe, given that in some locations (such as Düsseldorf) lounges have closed.
3. Lounge refurbishments in the US are also welcome
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen the BA lounges in Chicago and San Francisco, but the latter in particular is long overdue for a refurbishment.
In the case of Miami, BA currently uses a “Premium Lounge” that is shared with its Oneworld alliance partners. Our understanding from a visit to this lounge last week is that this lounge will become an American Airlines branded Admirals Club.
4. Expectations are high for the Heathrow lounge refurbishment programme
The big news is of course the Heathrow lounge project. Our understanding is that the planning for this is at a very early stage.
BA’s “Galleries” lounge complex opened at Terminals 3 and 5 just under ten years ago at a cost of some £60 million. Much has changed since then. Very few passengers carried personal electronic devices in 2008.
The competition at London Heathrow has also improved considerably. The opening of Terminal 2 saw a string of new lounges from airlines such as United Airlines and Singapore Airlines. At Terminal 3, Cathay Pacific opened new business and first class lounges to widespread acclaim. Qantas is due to open new lounges in this terminal later this year.
Third party lounges have also improved considerably with lounges from No 1 lounges and Plaza Premium being well received.
There is an expectation by frequent flyers that the “home” airline of a major airport should have the best lounges at the airport (see Cathay Pacific’s portfolio of lounges at Hong Kong or the Qantas First Lounge in Sydney).
Whilst the Galleries lounges did receive a modest refresh last year with new furniture (pictured below) there are signs that a refurbishment is overdue. It’s particularly disappointing the two signature pieces of art (Troika’s digital cloud installation and “All the time in the world” electroluminescent art wall) near the escalators have long been inoperational.
Whilst we expect to have to wait a while, we await with interest what BA has planned for what should be both the flagship lounges of its own network and Heathrow airport and we hope its setting its ambitions high.