Frank van der Post on British Airways' New First
The airline’s managing director of brands and customer experience discusses the advent of BA’s new ‘First’ cabins, expected to land next year. Formerly chief operating officer of Jumeirah Group, here, Frank advances his thoughts on luxury concepts and brands with Abigail Parkin.
AP :How will British Airways’ new First ethos reflect contemporary luxury?
Frank van der Post: We'll fully unveil the new cabin when our 787-9s start arriving next year, but to me, contemporary luxury is about attention to detail. It's using the best possible materials and technology and creating something that is both beautiful and functional. It should anticipate customers' needs and deliver a thought-through the environment so that it addresses every requirement they may have. For British Airways, it also needs to reflect British style and that's about being understated and elegant and using a palette and fabrics that are luxurious and timeless.
And how did you set about about anticipating customers’ needs at this level?
I don't want to give too much away on the details just yet, but anticipating customers' needs is at the heart of a process like this. We need to think about how our First customers use the space - working, sleeping, relaxing, eating, reading etc.. We then combine that with our experience of cabin design, technology and materials and produce a space that works for all our customers in today’s world.
Our global customers were uppermost in our minds when we were developing First. We do an enormous amount of global research to find out what our customers want. We know our customers like British style and they feel it epitomises the best of design.
Will there be elements of it that are too discrete for customers to notice at first glance?
There will be various elements that we hope will delight our customers as they familiarise themselves with the space. The materials and technologies will be understated, yet very high quality and practical.
“The ultimate luxury these days is time; we always seem to run out of it so anyone who gives you time back is a winner.”
Do you believe that BA’s First will help shrink the gap between commercial and private jet flying?
I think they serve different purposes. As well as our cabins and lounges, our First customers like our schedule and network.
Has the luxury pendulum swung from conspicuous consumption to discerning consumption – in the air and down here?
Yes, it’s not about labels and showing off – it’s about understated elegance. But then, we’ve never been about labels and showing off, we’ve always focused on producing the best possible cabin, with the finest materials and technologies and combined that with world class service. The ultimate luxury these days is time though; we always seem to run out of it so anyone or anything which gives you time back is a winner. The brands who best understand and deliver that will come out on top.
What are your predictions for the next big trends in the luxury travel sector?
Personalisation is very much what we’re focusing on. Our ‘Know Me’ programme helps us to deliver personalised service and that programme will continue to grow. Technology will also continue to influence travel.
Which luxury brands that you admire on a personal level
Probably my top ones are Range Rover, Porsche, Burberry, Boss, Orvis, Hilditch and Key, Crockett & Jones and Norman Foster.I don’t think it’s always about brands though – for example, we are very lucky to have good food in so many places these days made with fresh, good quality products. That to me is a luxury.
Frank van der Post was chief operating officer at luxury hotelier, Jumeirah Group before joining, British Airways. Prior to this, he spent 21 years with the InterContinental Hotels Group in Europe and North America where he oversaw a multi-million dollar renovation of the iconic InterContinental The Barclay New York.
Frank is married with two children and his hobbies include playing golf, fly-fishing and skiing.
Headline image- Nick Morrish