British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz says it always will be "a premium airline" as he plots tech push to fight off competition

Rebecca Smith
BA announced a £4.5bn investment programme in November
BA announced a £4.5bn investment programme in November (Source: Getty)

The chief executive of British Airways said today the carrier "always will be a premium airline", though added the airline remained unapologetic about cost-cutting in order to face off against rising competition.

Speaking at the Aviation Club lunch, Alex Cruz said: "Let me make our position clear: we are, and always will be, a premium airline. And we are, and always will be, committed to customer choice."

"Given some of the fares in the marketplace, we make no apology for making ourselves more efficient in various ways so we can consistently compete effectively," he added. "30 years ago when BA was privatised, our cheapest fare to Rome was - in today's money - £398. Now, it's £80."

Read more: BA brings back second meal for long-haul flights amid rising competition

Cruz said BA is reducing back-office headcount, and reiterated that the airline was discussing future pension arrangements with "colleagues and trade unions", after announcing proposals in September to move employees onto a new plan. As well as some of the obvious competitive challenges, Cruz said the rising customer expectation brought from the likes of Uber, Amazon and Deliveroo was providing a fresh test.

While BA owner IAG has been running its own accelerator programmes to work with budding industry startups, Cruz said an increasing number of new firms are encroaching with apps and services "that inch into our operating models".

The airline is "working very hard" on its response to the disruption, with Cruz saying BA will unveil more details next year.

The carrier has been fighting off criticism over cutting perks, with the introduction of buy-on-board catering for economy customers getting off to a bumpy start. Today, Cruz said many of his carrier's attributes can be "overlooked", citing its punctuality record on departures from the capital as the best "of all the big three short-haul carriers".

Last month, the airline announced a £4.5bn investment programme which includes boosting catering on long-haul flights, in an effort to revamp the airline in an increasingly competitive environment.

IAG picked up Gatwick slots left by collapsed airline Monarch last month, and Cruz said today discussion is underway to pick which destinations they will be used for.

Read more: BA owner IAG has just thrown down the gauntlet to low-cost airlines

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