Sitting tight: BA offers more to take care of business travelers

Reem Nafie
11 Min Read

CAIRO: At a lavish celebration with top aviation officials and loyal British Airways (BA) customers, the blue and red airline launched their new Club World (CW) seat, which will be available on all London-Cairo flights.

Promising utmost comfort, luxury and privacy, the new CW seat is available in business class cabins and allows passengers to sleep, work or simply relax throughout flight time.

“We’ve redesigned the Club World experience from end-to-end so, whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, you arrive refreshed, relaxed and ready for the day ahead, British Airways promises.

“Club World is our most profitable class, we have to keep investing in it. In formulating what we need to do to invest in the product, we spoke to a group of our top corporate travelers and asked what was needed to make our current CW even better, Darren Peek, BA’s commercial manager for East Central Europe and North Africa, told Daily News Egypt.

After extensive research and survey, BA found that the key elements in CW were comfort and privacy, and so they decided to invest in the flat bed. “It’s about investing in the materials that will simulate the feeling of that nice bed you have at home. We got comments that the seats needed to be wider, giving room for movement and so our seats now are 25 percent wider, Peek said.

CW is more than just a good night’s sleep; it creates an ambience: Passengers will have their own private theater, a privacy screen that allows you to feel like you’re in your “own capsule. There are also special “on the ground services on departure and arrival, including the opportunity to shower and get your suit pressed, all exclusivities that are now available to the BA business traveler going through the London-Cairo route.

This product does come at a hefty price, but there is a demand for the product and “after a long day at the office, you will appreciate the comfort, Peek says.

A key part of BA’s business is the premium business traveler, which amounts to around 20 percent of their passengers. The CW/Business class costs from LE 4,000 to LE 6,000 depending on the availability of seats, which is a price the average citizen may not be able to afford.

“We are not overpriced, we are competitively priced, Peek said, “We offer great value for money. We were the first airline to launch flat beds in CW in 2000.

The upgraded bed in the new CW is worth 100 million English pounds in investments.

Peek is confident that the remaining 80 percent, who are not business travelers always have the option to book online and find cheaper deals. “People will purchase on impulse if the price is right, if you know in advance what you are doing, book early to get the best prices, he said.

“For the same seats, you get high variance in prices and it all depends on supply and demand. If the flight is busy and you book late, you will pay a high price, but if you book on an off peak service and early you will get a cheaper price and that applies to Egypt, he explained.

BA’s presence in Egypt is essential for the company on a global level. The nation’s rich culture and heritage attracts people from all around the world. UK residents are lured by the history of Ancient Egypt, which makes it a lucrative destination for the airline.

In 1940, BA expanded its operations, bringing 2,000 employees to Egypt and making it their hub, flying to African cities from Cairo. In the 1970s, BA inaugurated its daily flight service from Cairo.

“This winter, we’ll be flying our 747 that will include 70 CW seats. The 747 gives plenty of seats to sell in this market and gives us a leading position on the London-Cairo route, Peek said.

BA is not the only company seizing the opportunity in Egypt.

BMI, Heathrow’s second largest carrier, has announced that it will launch a new daily service from Cairo to London Heathrow starting Oct. 28. Meanwhile, BA is facing the new competitor head on.

“Competition in some markets can be quite healthy, as it helps to grow a market. We’ve had examples where new entries have come and helped grow a market and generated more interest by having competitors there, Peek said. “The low cost model in Europe with low cost carriers has made the market more accessible to people who couldn’t afford to fly to European cities and BA competes very effectively against them.

While BA realizes that it is inevitable that BMI could take a portion of their market share, they have confidence that the market will grow and allow for more customers. “There is potential for the market to grow, the interest from London to come to Egypt is still very strong, the market from Egypt going out to the UK has been successful the last two years, I think there is room for growth, he said.

BMI has also announced the signing of a memorandum of understanding with EgyptAir, which will see the carriers enter into code-share and frequent flyer agreements. This will enable passengers to benefit from an expanded network as well as frequent flyer program rewards and benefits when flying on either airline.

“BMI would not have entered the market and partnered with EgyptAir if they didn’t think they could secure a significant market share. The partnership is interesting, because both airlines fly to the UK, both want people on their flight and care only about revenue, Peek said.

“We have faced their competition before in other markets and we’ve successfully competed. We are confident of our product, we can’t afford to be compulsive and arrogant, but we are confident that we can face BMI when they start, Peek said.

For the business travelers the flight schedule is of utmost importance. If you’re traveling from Egypt, BA leaves in the morning, which means you’ll arrive in the morning and connect to the world. BMI, on the other hand, arrives in London at 7 pm, “which gives us an advantage over them.

As a result of BA’s extensive network, they offer connecting flights to the US, Far East or any other place for Egyptians going to London, while their competition might not be able to do the same.

BA will be able to offer better connections with the opening of the new Heathrow Terminal 5 (T5) by year end. The airline will be the sole occupier of the terminal, enabling them to conduct all their operations under one roof.

“It’s an exciting time for BA because T5 will enable us to connect short haul with long haul, which enables us to offer great transfer for our connections and great facilities in a state-of-the-art building. It’s been a long time coming, we’ve waited years to have the ability to operate under one terminal out of Heathrow, Peek said.

With the operation of T5, BA will focus on maximizing its schedules, especially given the fact that there are almost no spare slots (takeoff and landing space) in Heathrow, due to its high congestion. BA already owns 40 percent of the existing slots, before the operation of T5.

“It’s important to put our schedule where the passenger demand is and so we will focus on the places of growth. Open Skies, an agreement between Europe and the US, will enable us to fly to Dallas and Houston out of Heathrow, instead of Gatwick next summer. We’re also looking at flying to Algiers from Heathrow, he said.

Terminal 5 will feature the largest lounge complex in an airport in the world, with separate business class and first class arrivals and departure lounges. To BA, the lounge experience on departure and arrival is just as important as the flight itself.

“I’m hoping that the new Cairo Airport terminal will be ready soon, so we can offer the same kind of lounge services in Egypt, Peek said.

BA is also investing in increasing their fleet, and has recently ordered 12 A380s and 24 787s.

Although BA might not be a member of the biggest alliance, it is proud to be a member of One World – one of the most profitable alliances. BA is currently evaluating a bid with Spanish airline Iberia, in conjunction with its expansion plans.

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