Raahil Chopra
Oct 25, 2023

Huge focus on the customer and the customer experience: Hamish McVey, British Airways

The global director - marketing speaks with Campaign India about its Diwali campaign which will be on-air during the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup

British Airways has rolled out a campaign for the festive season in India to express gratitude to its dedicated staff members for their pivotal role in enabling customers to celebrate Diwali with their loved ones.
The campaign which is on-air on television along with cinema, OOH and social media, spotlights British Airways team members. It features an Indian-based cabin crew, a service advisor, and a Delhi airport customer service agent.
We caught up with Hamish McVey, director – marketing, British Airways, to learn more about the campaign.
Edited excerpts:
The last big campaign in India - 'fuelled by love' was also around the cabin crew. Does this one continue from there? 
The campaign is a celebration of Diwali and people coming together for it. It’s also a thank you to those who have to work during Diwali. To bring people to celebrate the festival together, many have to work during this time. It’s a thank you to the people across British Airways who are working during the festival to make it easy for people to come together.
We have several different people across the BA team in India who are taking part. Yes, we have the cabin crew, but there are also people from the engagement centres, colleagues who work at the airport and more. We are showcasing the range of people who work for British Airways in India.
Are you running this in other markets too?
We will be showcasing some of the campaign in the US too because there’s an important flow of customers to India from that market too. 
Earlier this year, BA won a Grand Prix at Cannes in outdoor. In terms of the media mix, how does BA spread its budgets?
We launched our brand platform – ‘A British Original’, through a multi-media campaign. We won the Grand Prix for our outdoor execution, showcasing the original reasons why people travel. 
This time too, we are using a mix of AV and outdoor advertising. We have some great spots on TV during the ICC World Cup. The outdoor advertising is in key spots around the five gateways we fly through in India. And then we have cinema too.
How big is the Indian market for BA? In terms of the top 10 markets, where would it rank?
If you look globally, the UK, the US and India are our biggest markets. India has always been an important market for us and next year we celebrate 100 years of flying to India. Back in 1924, it took 14 days to fly from London to Delhi, and it’s only nine hours now!
India will continue to be a strategically important market for us and will continue to be so. We have 56 flights a week from London into the five gateways in India. We have three flights to Mumbai, two to Delhi and a daily flight to Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai. 
In the 15 years you've spent with BA, how has the aviation industry and the company evolved?
The industry has changed a huge amount. The number of airlines in the market has changed. We’ve seen some consolidation in the space too. All airlines have had to change the way they operate. And then in the more recent past, we’ve had the pandemic which has been a further catalyst for change. 
For us at British Airways, we’ve had to change a huge amount as to how we operate. We’ve become more efficient. There’s a huge focus on the customer and the customer experience and that’s not changed over the 15 years I’ve been at British Airways. 
We’ve always had a focus on the customer and now that’s something that we are continuing to do and have further investments planned in the space. 
You mention customer experience. The aviation industry, probably more than any other industry, gets a lot of flak on social media when things go wrong (delayed flights, luggage etc). How can you tackle this?
Customers mainly use X (formerly Twitter) to contact if they want something to be resolved. We have teams of people in our customer engagement centres, which is where we have 24x7 customer service who are responding to customers. We look to respond to all those customer queries by being as proactive as possible.
We have had to change and adapt. We put more people into serving customers through social media channels. It’s an increasingly important touchpoint for customers to reach out to us.
The industry in India seems to be extremely price sensitive, with pricing and time of departure the most important factors behind purchasing tickets. While ‘loyalty cards’ can help attract audiences, price still does play a major role in India, would that be true in the UK too?  
Price, network and schedule are massively important. We have the British Airways ‘Executive Club’ or Avios where you can earn tier points which go towards making it easier to fly. 
But what’s more important is that you build loyalty through the experience and how you make your customers feel. For us, we want our customers to have fantastic flights and experiences in the sky. That’s the kind of thing that builds loyalty and trust. We invest a lot in training our people to deliver the right service to our customers. How a customer feels at the end of any kind of experience determines whether they will be back or not. 
At an industry level, what are the challenges you see?
Sustainability is becoming increasingly important for the industry. Our parent company was one of the first airlines to put the focus on it and has a mission of being carbon neutral by 2050. We are doing a lot around sustainability – whether it’s sustainable aviation fuel, reducing waste on board, or improving the efficiency of our operations. 
There are several factors outside the industry that impact the airlines. For example, the price of fuel increasing. 
For all airlines at this moment, the industry has seen a positive return to flying post the pandemic. There’s a lot of demand in the market and that’s an opportunity that can be capitalised on. People still want to travel, and that’s going beyond the ‘revenge travel’ that was being discussed. 
Campaign India

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