BCCJ Member Spotlight: Noella Ferns (British Airways)

Written by Sterling Content
March 6, 2024


Written by Sterling Content
March 6, 2024

Last year, British Airways celebrated 75 years of operating flights to Japan and this year the airline is continuing to roll out its biggest investment plan in its 104-year history.

The British Chamber of Commerce in Japan spoke to Noella Ferns, Head of Sales Asia Pacific, to hear more about the airline’s £7 billion transformation programme and what’s to come over the coming months and beyond.


How important is the Japan market to British Airways?

We’ve been flying between the UK and Japan for 75 years, and we’re proud to be at the heart of the UK-Japan business relationship. Trade ties are strong, and the UK remains one of the most popular destinations for tourism and education among Japanese travellers.


How is British Airways responding to pent-up demand for Japan?

We’ve been pleased with demand, following the resumption of flights in November 2022. Leisure travel is particularly buoyant and business travel is moving in the right direction. Our newest aircraft with our latest business class cabin, the Airbus A350, will be operating on our Tokyo route from end of March 2024, and we’re pleased to say we’re increasing the number of weekly flights between the two cities from 11 to 14 this summer season.


What can customers expect from the new Airbus?

The Airbus A350-1000 is the world’s most modern wide-body aircraft and features British Airways’ latest business class seat, Club Suite. The flat-bed seat offers direct-aisle access and a suite door for greater privacy in a 1-2-1 configuration with 40% more storage, including a vanity unit and mirror. Customers can also enjoy a luxurious plush pillow and warm quilt from The White Company, an amenity kit and an improved dining experience; every aspect of the journey has been designed so that customers can work and relax.

In the cabin, the A350-1000 promotes a feeling of well-being, space and calm due to a 40% reduction in noise, as well as high ceilings, ambient lighting and an optimised cabin altitude of 6,000ft for a more comfortable journey. Cabin air is renewed every two to three minutes to minimise the effects of jet lag and maximise cabin air filtration.


As a new craft is it more sustainable?

Absolutely, the A350 is one of the most fuel-efficient aircrafts in operation, offering a 25% fuel burn reduction compared to other aircraft of a similar size. Its nitrogen oxide emissions are nearly a third below the current industry standard, with noise levels also much lower compared to previous generations, while its Trent XWB engines have the lowest fuel consumption for any turbofan aircraft in service today, thereby lowering CO2 emissions.


How important is sustainability to British Airways?

Flying comes with an environmental cost and now, more than ever, we need to take greater action to tackle the impact it has on our planet. British Airways is an industry leader in sustainable aviation, and sustainability is at the heart of our business strategy. We aim to reach net zero by 2050 or sooner.

In 2021, we launched the BA Better World programme, building on our established track record of sustainability leadership in the industry. In the short-term this includes improving our operational efficiency, investing in more efficient aircraft, funding verified carbon offset projects and introducing sustainable aviation fuels (SAF). We are the first airline to start using SAF produced commercially in the UK for our aircraft, and all of our flights to Japan from London Heathrow depart with SAF.

Our commitment to sustainable flying reflects in our on-board choices as well. We have looked at ways to reduce single-use plastic by removing plastic bags from our flights, enhancing the use of recycled plastic and replacing plastic items with environmentally friendly materials such as bamboo. These changes have led to us saving more than 45 tonnes of plastic a year.


With International Women’s Day coming up, DEI is top of mind. What is British Airways’ approach to DEI?

We care about our people and value their contributions to our business. Creating a diverse and inclusive workplace contributes to a sense of wellbeing and belonging, enabling people to thrive. This philosophy is embraced by our leaders, championed by our employee network groups and supported by our relationships with external partners, including Stonewall and the National Forum for Health and Wellbeing at Work.

We celebrate different perspectives, backgrounds and experiences, recognising that diversity is a powerful force for change. We want our workforce to be more reflective of the world we live in and the global communities we serve.

We believe that our leaders should represent the diverse populations in the UK and are committed to addressing the underrepresentation of women and minority ethnic groups across the company, particularly in management roles. Our target is to achieve 40% representation of woman in senior management levels by 2025 and equal representation by 2030. We have 39% of women at this senior level but need to accelerate change to achieve our 2030 goal.

Our focus is on recruitment and diversification of our talent pipelines for senior roles, while working hard to increase gender diversity in areas where it is more challenging to attract women, for example in flight operations and engineering.

Our apprenticeship and work experience programmes are designed to encourage a diverse mix of new recruits that reflect our evolving population. We are also a member of Business in the Community and a signatory of the Race at Work Charter, which aims to ensure that ethnic minority employees are represented at all levels.


What are British Airways’ goals in the short- and long-term?

We are trialling technology to allow our teams in the air to communicate with our teams on the ground, and we have just launched a proactive customer care team that allows us to pre-empt an issue like a broken seat and move the customer before they fly. We also continue to roll out Club Suite across our fleet; more than 60% of aircraft have been retrofitted and every new aircraft has Club Suite installed.

We recently announced our largest transformation programme ever – where we’re investing £7 billion over the next three years. We’ve started with fixing the basics and have more than 600 projects running to transform the business. A significant part of that investment is in cutting-edge machine learning, automation and AI across our operation, driving improvements from bookings to baggage handling and helping us cut cancellations and delays.