British Airways to spend big in Brexit year

The airline’s chief executive reveals big investment plans for 2019

Alex Cruz

British Airways’ (BA) CEO Alex Cruz has confirmed that the airline has up to £6.5 billion to spend on new planes, airport lounges and staff training in 2019, as the UK braces itself for economic turbulence following Brexit.

The airline will also invest in the latest technology and hire 3,000 more people in what is set to be an uncertain year for British businesses, fuelled by the UK’s departure from the European Union next March. 

The £6.5 billion earmarked for investment is £2 billion more than initially announced in 2017, according to Cruz. “We’re financially stable and prepared for any potential downturns if and when they come,” he said at ‘A global executive’s guide to leading in a disrupted world’, a London Business School event held in partnership with BA. 

“I was recently with around 100 captains from our A320 fleet and I told them that we’re in a unique position because next year will generally be full of confusion, questions, anxiety and doubt over the identity of our country. And yet British Airways is going to invest a tremendous amount of money to ensure we are offering a fantastic customer experience.”

BA will buy the latest airline industry technology to react to customers’ changing expectations. Cruz said that in his experience, people want to be more informed about any service-related issues when, for example, booking an Uber, ordering a takeaway or buying a plane ticket. They also want any problems addressed quickly and some form of compensation if things go wrong. 

“My 18-year-old recently ordered food through Deliveroo for him and his friends,” he said. “One portion of chips was missing so he called up the company to complain and asked what they were going to do about it. He got his dinner for free. We’re now operating in a completely different world from a consumer perspective to the one I grew up in.”  

Cruz added that BA is working on 50 tech-related projects at any one time as part of its strategy to dominate the industry. “We’ll refine our service and continue listening to our customers, to understand their needs and what they’re looking for in an airline, which is extremely important. The plan is to make BA the best airline in the world.”