British Airways has announced plans to double the number of Chinese cabin crew working on its flights to Beijing and Shanghai from its hub at London Heathrow. The airline intends to hire around 44 new crew in Shanghai and a further 26 who will be based in Beijing.
It’s part of a big effort by the airline to better serve Chinese passengers on the two popular routes. British Airways says once the recruitment drive is complete, there will be four ‘international’ cabin crew on each of its Chinese-bound flights – accounting for around 36% of the total crew onboard every flight.
The new cabin crew will be fluent in both Mandarin and English, with the hope that non-English speaking passengers will get a far better service than what they might currently experience. At present, BA operates 10 services per week to Shanghai and a daily service to Beijing.
In the past, British Airways has said China is an important emerging market which it needs to better serve. Efforts to expand into the country, however, have been somewhat less successful with the airline scrapping its 5-weekly service to the Chinese megacity of Chengdu in January 2017. Instead, BA has embarked on codesharing deals with local airlines, including China Southern and China Eastern.
The airline has also tried to woo passengers with tailored amenities, developed especially for the Chinese market – these include special meal choices, popular Asian teas and even free slippers.
“We appreciate our Chinese customers have a choice when they fly to and from the UK so we hope these changes, alongside the increase in the number of Mandarin-speaking customer services representatives at our home in Heathrow, will make their journeys as smooth as possible,” explained Noella Ferns, the airline’s Executive Vice President for Greater China.
Last year, British Airways introduced a specialist team of check-in agents at Heathrow Airport in order to bridge language and cultural barriers with Chinese passengers.
The new Chinese cabin crew will only work on British Airways flights to and from Beijing and Shanghai – the limited routes have, in the past, led to accusations the airline wasn’t offering enough development opportunities for its Chinese-based crew and its believed retention has been an ongoing issue.
British Airways says new crew should expect to earn around £23,000 – £28,000 in their first year. In 2017, the airline agreed to increase wages for its Mixed Fleet cabin crew after strike action which saw staffers make accusations they were receiving “poverty pay”.