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BA rolls out first-class upgrades
British Airways (BA), which last year celebrated five decades of service to T&T and is the longest serving European carrier to the Caribbean, has ramped up its first-class service to customers in this market. The flag carrier airline of the United Kingdom, BA completed a $100 million product enhancement investment in 2012, which included upgrades to the first-class cabins on its aircraft to create an “intimate private jet experience.”
That means customers from T&T and other Caribbean markets can now enjoy the luxury of seats which convert to six-foot fully-flat beds; a Club World menu which combines the finest local and international ingredients, with meals served on fine china; extensive in-flight entertainment, with personal flat screen; and noise-cancelling headphones and other first-class options.
This new luxury experience begins even before the first-class traveller boards the aircraft, with stress-free check-in open from 24 hours before the flight departs, including print, fax or e-mail boarding pass options to save time at the airport, real-time arrival and departure information and live travel news. In addition, check-in kiosks are now available at Piarco International Airport.
“Feedback from customers helped us define our product and improve on it,” explained Marcia Erskine, PR consultant for BA. “We’re in a good space right now but we’re always seeking to improve.” Erskine, who is based in Jamaica, spoke to the Sunday Guardian about the new services BA is offering in the region during a recent visit to T&T.
The airline currently operates return flights from Port-of-Spain to London Gatwick Airport via St Lucia five times weekly, as well as one flight per week from Tobago to London Gatwick Airport via Antigua.
BA, which has been flying to the Caribbean since 1946, currently serves 11 gateways in the Caribbean to London from Kingston, Nassau, Grand Cayman, Providenciales, Antigua, Punta Cana, St Kitts, Grenada, St Lucia and T&T. Its operations are centred at its main hub at London Heathrow Airport, with a second major hub at London Gatwick Airport.
The airline was formed in 1971 from a merger between two large London-based airlines, British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) and British European Airways Corporation (BEA) and two smaller regional airlines, Cambrian Airways and Northeast Airlines. Their point person in the local market is Marcelle Joseph, the district manager for T&T and St Lucia.
While other carriers provide service between T&T and London, Joseph said BA has been able to hold its own in a competitive market by demonstrating, through the quality of its service, its strong commitment. She said the airline also benefits from significant customer loyalty. Joseph explained that BA not only connects travellers to London and destinations in Europe but also “connects the Caribbean to each other” with its inter-island flights.
“While it is a British carrier, we try to be responsive to the needs of all our customers,” she said. Erskine said in the coming weeks and months, BA’s customers in T&T can look forward to a new promotion with India as the area of focus. It will be aimed at creating wider public awareness of that destination with the tagline—Getting There.
She explained that the carrier not only focuses on promoting the UK but actively supports local attractions with the aim of boosting the tourism product here. That includes offering special hotel packages for Carnival and other major T&T events. In addition, BA has worked with members of the T&T Horticultural Society, assisting with getting participants and freight to the annual Chelsea Flower Show. Support has also been provided to a range of local sporting bodies, religious organisations and other groups, Erskine said.
She emphasised that the airline offers a full service experience, from booking the flight, to hotel accommodations, car rentals and even tickets to attractions and restaurants. Putting her own spin on a popular saying, Erskine said: “It takes a village to keep an airline flying and by keeping in touch with our markets, we ensure that we are able to respond to changing needs.”