British Airways could be looking to rename its frequent flyer club and its branded cabin classes to appeal to a new breed of premium leisure travellers who continue to drive demand at the Heathrow-based airline and as business travel lags behind following the pandemic.
In recent months, the airline has been sending out detailed surveys to travellers and frequent flyers asking for their opinions on a range of topics, including whether the airline should start offering milk-based alternatives and how the airline could improve its onboard Wi-Fi.
Some of these questions are based on touchpoints that British Airways has already recognised should be changed and is working on building a business case to secure the necessary funding, while other topics are at an earlier exploratory phase.
British Airways created its frequent flyer club back in 1982, and while the programme has changed significantly over the years, its name – the British Airways Executive Club – has remained constant in the last four decades.
For many years, businessmen represented the bulk of members of BA’s frequent flyer loyalty programme, but times are rapidly changing, and a name change could now be on the cards.
British Airways has been asking members whether the current name of the programme is relatable and aspirational, suggesting the airline is concerned that passengers aren’t signing up as members because they don’t think the frequent flyer programme is for them… in other words, they still think the programme is designed primarily for business travellers.
For an airline, that means they are losing crucial data about passengers and making it a lot harder to drive loyalty and repeat business.
One suggestion is calling the programme ‘Flying Club’ – the name that Virgin Atlantic, which has focused on premium leisure travellers for many years, uses for its loyalty programme.
Also on the cards to be changed are BA’s branded classes of travel. British Airways was one of the first airlines to give bespoke names for its different cabins, such as Club World for Business Class, World Traveller Plus for Premium Economy and World Traveller for Economy.
Again, the branded cabin classes are a relic of the 1980s, with Club World introduced in 1988 and World Traveller following a few years later in 1991.
To further complicate BA’s cabin class naming structure, the airline also has Club Europe and Euro Traveller, which represent Business Class and Economy on short-haul hops across Europe.
The question is whether these branded cabin classes still make sense in 2023 – especially for travellers who are shopping for flights on price comparison sites and don’t instantly know the difference between different cabin names.
Of course, British Airways isn’t alone in branding its cabins – United has Polaris, Virgin Atlantic offers Upper Class and Air Canada has Signature Class, to name but a few.
It’s not known how far BA is into the process of potentially changing its cabin class names, although the airline is likely looking to gauge brand awareness of the different names and what they represent across a wide range of travellers.
That brand awareness and product knowledge are no doubt very good amongst loyal customers who have flown with BA for many years, but are they potentially confusing and even offputting for the airline’s new premium leisure travellers?
Name changes like this would likely be opposed by existing members who see little value in a rebrand when they’d like to see BA focus on other aspects of the customer experience that desperately need improving but if executed well, the idea is to attract new customers, while not alienating longtime members.
What do you think? Should British Airways embark on a rebrand of its loyalty programme and cabin classes?
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.