British Airways says significant benefits from its five-year, £6.5bn investment program will flow through to customers in 2019 as it celebrates its 100th anniversary with new routes, aircraft and product.
The British carrier will add routes to Charleston and Pittsburgh in the US as well as to Osaka in Japan and the Mediterranean Islands of Kos and Corsica.
Other new destinations to make up what the airline says will be its most extensive network in a decade include Ljubljana in Slovenia and Montpellier in France.
The airline will take delivery of 15 new aircraft this year, including four Airbus A350s featuring the much-anticipated new Club World seat. The A350s start arriving mid-year and the seat will also feature on two Boeing 777s by year’s end.
A new look first class will include new dining, bedding and amenity kits from UK designers and BA is promising “an industry-leading makeover” for World traveler Plus.
“Never will this business-class challenger have looked so good,’’ the airline says in a rundown of the year ahead. “Look out for a new seat, new bedding, new dining and classy new drinks in this intimate and exclusive cabin.
The upgrades will be complemented by new lounges in San Francisco, Johannesburg, Geneva and JFK.
On the technology front, travelers should expect more in-flight wi-fi and expansion of facial recognition technology to make boarding faster and more painless.
Airports slated to get more biometric technology include Heathrow, London City and Gatwick, New York JFK, Orlando, Los Angeles and Miami.
Digital bag tags — touted by the airline as a UK first — will allow customers to sync their tag with the BA app and there will be a new ba.com homepage.
A renewed focus on customer service will see almost 30,000 staff receive new customer service training, particularly in its Heathrow T5 hub.
New technology will allow the airline to automatically book hotel rooms for passengers who miss their flights due to disruption.
The environment and on-time performance also get a boost with new emissions-free, remote control pushback vehicles improving punctuality for long-haul flights.
The airline says short-haul versions of the vehicles improved push-back delays by more than 70 percent.
The airline plans to reveal more plans during the year, including details of its new business class seat. This is the first major revamp in some years and is said to include more space and storage as well as direct aisle access for all passengers.
There will also be gate-to-gate entertainment, something observers have interpreted as suggesting there will be a fixed monitor.
How BA, a company formed in 1974 with the merger of British European Airways and the British Overseas Airways Corporation, comes to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2019 is convoluted.
The UK flag carrier is celebrating its beginnings as the August 25, 1919 launch of regular flights across the English Channel by a small airline called Aircraft Transport and Travel.
AT&T launched the world’s first scheduled international service by flying between Hounslow, Middlesex, and Paris carrying just one passenger.
It only operated for a year before going bankrupt but some of its assets were later used to start Daimler Airway.
A series of mergers saw Daimler folded into Imperial Airways in 1924 and this was later incorporated into BOAC at the start of World War II.