"Israel is an important milestone in the history of British Airways, which is now celebrating the 85th anniversary of the route from the UK to Israel," British Airways chairman and CEO Alex Cruz said upon arriving in Israel today.
Cruz added that British Airways would consider operating flights to Eilat through a new brand being launched in response to growth by low cost airlines. Flights under the new Level brand will be officially launched soon.
British Airways will celebrate its 100th birthday in 2019, and Cruz says that it is re-launching itself, with a £4.5 billion investment over five years announced this week to upgrade all of its products, including the purchase of 72 new airliners, the upgrading of 128 existing airliners ("passengers will board the plane and think that it's a new one"), improved airline food, WiFi connection for seats, the installation of charging outlets, and an improved experience at Heathrow Airport in London.
A special emphasis has been placed on the airline's business class. British Airways is the only European airline offering four classes of seats for passengers: tourist, economy plus, business, and first class.
Like other airlines, British Airways is also emphasizing a large supply of connection flights from London to many destinations around the world, especially the US. This year, the company is launching a direct flight to Nashville, and last year it launched a flight to New Orleans. Cruz says that a new North American destination will be launched each year.
As Cruz stresses, the key word in competition is efficiency. He says, "We have achieved significant improvement in every measure, and have increased our efficiency in a way that no other company has. We're focusing on offering options to passengers. Our product is a premium product, but we also have flights to the US for £150. Our focus is on offering a choice to passengers at all levels. We'll open more destinations, and our network of destinations will be the largest in the world. We live by competition, and we'll go on becoming more efficient."
Cruz, who describes himself as a technology buff, said that a delegation of startup representatives from Israel had visited his office last week. Cruz complimented the local industry and its interesting aviation solutions, and said he was in touch with two companies on substantial cooperation.
Cruz also predicts an increase in the supply of passenger seats all over the world, including on flights to Israel, as part of a global trend, and hinted at the possibility of operating flights to Ovda Airport near Eilat, Israel's second international airport. This will create very interesting competition, especially if it includes a stop at Ben Gurion Airport on the way.
Cruz added that his company would try to take over the slots vacated at Gatwick Airport in London by low-cost airline Monarch, which collapsed.
Commenting on the looming Brexit, Cruz said, "We do not believe that traffic between Europe and the UK will collapse. There is no way we will cut the number of flights to Zurich, Paris, or Frankfurt. The need for an air connection is so strong that it does not appear to us that this development will affect us."
Flights from the UK to Israel were started in 1932 by Imperial Airways, which later became British Airways. The flights were on Short S17 Scipio Class flying boats that landed on Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee) 72 hours after leaving the UK, carrying 16 passengers. After landing, the passengers were transported by boat to land.
British Airways currently operates 14 weekly flights on the Tel Aviv-London route. All of the airline's flights to and from Israel are operated on a long-haul configuration, with everything associated with that classification (for example, there are four crew members in the cockpit).
British Airways fellow subsidiary Iberia is scheduled to upgrade its route to Tel Aviv in April 2018 by becoming the second airline in Europe to operate all of its flights to Israel on wide-body planes in long-haul configuration.
British Airways is a founding airline in the OneWorld aviation alliance. The merger with Iberia under the IAG group and the triple alliance created with Iberia and American Airlines enables the company to offer passengers tickets at attractive prices to over 500 destinations around the world.
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on November 9, 2017
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