BA PEOPLE • December 2020
You know where you want to go, you know the rules, now it’s just time to get that test. Helping remove stress from the process, British Airways’ chief commercial officer Andrew Brem and his team have provided links on ba.com to an array of testing options. That way, all you need to do is choose a destination. To find out more, we sit down with the man himself…
What does a day in your life look like?
Well, the fun thing is that there is no typical day in the life of a chief commercial officer. This morning, I got my hands on the revenue numbers after our Black Friday Sale, so I’ll be taking a look at them before checking in all on my teams, talking to our head of sales, looking at the data and trying to figure out what’s driving or impeding our revenue performance.
What is the purpose of this page of COVID-19 test providers on ba.com?
If you think back to that first phase of the pandemic, it was really all about repatriation, cargo flying and creating commercial policies, including vouchers, to give customers flexibility about when and where they would fly. Then in the summer the air corridors came in, meaning those desperate to travel finally could. But now customers face an array of ever-changing requirements for entering different countries, and very often those include the need to have a COVID-19 test. So, we’ve signposted some testing providers on ba.com to help customers easily solve this problem. Ultimately, this is all about reducing friction and making it easier to get away and explore the world once again.
Is this what you’d describe as a ‘new product’ for British Airways?
Not a new product as such. It is intended to give customers the ease to choose and link to third party testing providers. Additionally, this falls into our Book with Confidence commitment, launched early in the pandemic to reassure customers about booking and travelling. It’s certainly novel that customers can access a medical service through our website but, importantly, it is for customers to choose the test provider that’s right for them. Also, this is not a money-making exercise for BA; in fact, we’ve managed to get special discounts for British Airways customers with this particular set of providers. In terms of revenue, which is my job to look after, the hope is that removing this obstacle will encourage bookings and help get the travel sector back on its feet.
We wanted to create a suite of simple choices here in the UK that are affordable for customers with as little fuss as possible
Is that the main aim you were hoping to achieve?
There are some really good reasons to have your test done in the UK before you leave, and then you can just turn up with your test certificate. And so, what we wanted to do was to create a suite of simple choices here in the UK that are affordable for customers with as little fuss as possible. We hope the various options for consideration meet the varied needs of our customers – postal tests, test centre tests, at-the-airport tests. Basically, a spectrum of choice.
When you say affordable for customers, how’s that looking?
By bringing together options with several test providers, we’re acknowledging that some of them have different services and prices to others, and that it’s all about which one works for you. What all of them do bring is an exclusive discount for the British Airways customer. So for example, City Doc, which provides tests at test centres to help those who have anxieties about doing it at home, their standard test is £200, but for our customers, it’s £125. If you want to do the test at home, but you’d like to have help via a Zoom call with a clinician, you might want to use Nomad; its price is reduced from £195 to £166 for BA customers. The discounts are automatically applied and vary by provider.
We will be rejoicing the day when everyone is vaccinated and we can all go about our lives without having to worry about quarantine at all
How do you feel about the Government’s announcement on arrival testing?
From 15 December, the UK Government is giving travellers the option to be released from quarantine after five days (as opposed to the standard two weeks) if they test negative on their fifth day back in the country. Arrivals testing like this is definitely an improvement, but even five days quarantine is a significant deterrent from travelling for the many people who can’t WFH or who have children who need to go to school. Let’s just say it’s a step in the right direction, but we believe that a reliable, affordable testing regime is the only way to get people flying with confidence. Ultimately we will be rejoicing the day when everyone is vaccinated and we can all go about our lives without having to worry about quarantine at all, but in the meantime, we need a robust testing system.
What do you think the future of travel looks like?
First of all, humans love travelling, they love adventure, they love visiting other places, whether for business or for leisure. I think people are missing travel incredibly – I’m certainly desperate to get away again. So, I think travel will return in full force as soon as it’s allowed. Many people still have disposable income that they want to spend on travel so the industry will, in time, bounce back. And when it does, the digitisation of the travelling experience and contactless technologies will likely stick around, since the crisis has accelerated innovation on such a huge scale. And hopefully, our appreciation of the world and its people, will be that bit stronger than it was before.