Speaking at the opening of the airline?s new lounges at O.R. Tambo International, British Airways' chairman, Martin Broughton, said that while the carrier had cut its global flying programme by three percent it had retained the flexibility to respond to market demand.
?The immediate outlook for our South African routes is reasonably encouraging and the 2010 World Cup should bolster demand from at least mid-2009. We will up our current double-daily Johannesburg/ London flights to 19 a week from May next year and will operate our expanded Cape Town schedule over the South African summer peak from the end of October.?
He said the combination of oil prices that have averaged $100 a barrel since the beginning of the year, declining demand because of the global economic downturn and a fall in consumer confidence had created a "perfect storm" that had caused five UK airlines and about 30 other around the world to go out of business. More were likely to follow.
Fortunately British Airways was well positioned to weather the turbulence. It achieved a 10 percent operating margin during the 2007/08 financial year, had placed orders for new, more fuel efficient aircraft and had acted quickly to cut costs, which included reducing capacity on some routes.
Broughton said the airline was also thinking beyond the immediate crisis to how it would emerge in and industry re-shaped by the economic slump.
It is pursuing merger talks with Iberia and the two airlines have applied to operate joint transatlantic services with American Airlines.
?The Iberia merger will allow us to build on 10 years of co-operation, with increased efficiencies, synergies and a network fit that will bring benefits to both shareholders and customers. If approved, the agreement with American Airlines will mean discounted airfares, more convenient schedules and improved frequent flyer rewards across the Atlantic.?
He said that despite the current challenges "we remain absolutely focused on the interests of our customers."
The airline is continuing to roll out its award-winning Club World cabin ? already on all South African services ? across its fleet and has commissioned agencies to work with its in-house experts on a new First cabin to be launched next year.
New lounges for OR Tambo
Terminal 5 is now working well. Recent figures show check-in time is around 8.6 minutes and arrivals and departures punctuality is in the region of 90 percent.
The airline?s two new lounges at O.R. Tambo are modelled on the popular Galleries Lounges at Terminal 5. They include a dedicated First Lounge ? British Airways is the only airline to offer a direct first-class product to London ? and a considerably larger Club World (business class) lounge.