WTM 2017: British Airways boss ‘digital is everything’

WTM 2017: British Airways boss ‘digital is everything’

British Airways needs to evolve to a more fluid IT system that lets it make quicker changes, its boss has said.

Speaking in a wide-ranging interview at World Travel Market, chairman and chief executive Alex Cruz said: “Digital is everything.”

“If the airline industry don’t acknowledge what’s happening in the digital world, we might be overrun by retailers,” he told delegates.

British Airways this year suffered an IT meltdown, caused by a mistake by one of its contractors, that led to 75,000 customers being stranded at Gatwick and Heathrow airports over the second May bank holiday.

Cruz said the meltdown, which caused a huge consumer backlash, “sped up” the decision to invest £4.5 billion in the company – including a large chunk on modernising its behind the scenes technology as well as Wi-Fi upgrades across its fleet.

He also said that the airline has invested in technology teams to help it move technology from one platform to another quickly and hailed the importance of that method going forward, adding: “Unless we do that, we will not be able to provide a good, sustainable customer experience.”

When asked if British Airways needed to speed up its back office technology functions, Cruz said: “We need to do it. We have no choice.

“When you look at the challenges we have coming up in the next few years, we need to create an organisation that can make quick decisions.”

He said the seeds of that mentality were starting to come to fruition within the business, adding: “Approvals, internally, are taking less time”.

“We want to be able to get to a situation where we can take a decision one week about the change of something and it can be live at the airport the next week. If you can do that it’s tremendously motivating.

“It will take a little time, but we will get there. We need to get there.”

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