Plane sailing

Airline partnerships and alliances often seem to operate more in the breach than the observance but my experience this past weekend with British Airways and Iberia set a new bar for joined-up and consistent customer experience. And it got me thinking.

Firstly, there is a caveat – British Airways and Iberia are not simply alliance partners but are owned by one company, International Airlines Group. Two separate airlines with a common ownership. There was, however, nothing separate about it.

A last minute need to fly to Tel Aviv on business with a quick turnaround resulted in me opting for the London Heathrow – Madrid (British Airways) and then Madrid – Tel Aviv (Iberia) routing suggested on the British Airways booking portal. The business class product was infinitely less expensive than the direct routing and the timings worked. Madrid is an airport I know well and I think rivals Heathrow Terminal 5 for customer experience.

I was most impressed with onboard handovers between the airlines. On the journey out the BA staff knew about my next leg and made the effort to make sure I had everything I needed. On the early morning flight back from Tel Aviv the Iberia staff both announced the gate connections at Madrid on the p.a. and came to tell me.

Recognition onboard is a key feature to convey a sense of reward to the customer for loyalty and the fact that BA and Iberia both use onboard iPads is a factor here. I felt as if I was still flying BA only with a Spanish flavour. I would single out the Business Cabin lead attendant for particular praise. I was able to experience and observe her attention to detail and focus on delivering on both outward and return. A credit to Iberia and I need to see if I can find a way to pass this on – as a species we are quick to damn and slow to praise.

So what was the big thought ? Just that British Airways already has additional runways at London Heathrow they are called Madrid. Good experiences like the one I have just had make the thought of a connection less off putting especially if the connection feels like it is on route anyway.

Presumably the integration will become stronger (the back end of checking in on line and via mobile is a bit creaky) whilst still maintaining two distinctive propositions.

As with all these things it’s down to quality of experience. On the basis of the last 46 hours it’s working.

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