British Airways’ new TV ad welcomes back passengers as Covid restrictions lift

The aviation industry has been pummelled by the coronavirus pandemic.

BA: ad features ground operations lead Chelsea Rawlings, aka 'the baton guy'
BA: ad features ground operations lead Chelsea Rawlings, aka 'the baton guy'

British Airways has unveiled a new TV ad as it looks ahead to the safe restart of travel.

Launching tomorrow (7 May) during Gogglebox on Channel 4, “You make us fly" is the airline’s first TV ad since 2019 and, starring its own staff and crew, features a palpable sense of impatience and excitement at returning to the skies.

BA has long sold itself as providing a service bookended by comfort and familiarity and the new campaign plays up to these qualities.

It features the rousing swells of Flower Duet from Delibes’ opera Lakme - the same music that has featured in its advertising for over 40 years and is still used as the airline’s boarding music.

The campaign comes at a time of change for BA. The airline last month promoted Tom Stevens to director of brand and customer experience, its top marketing role. Parent company IAG, meanwhile, is in the process of reviewing all its agency relationships, including the media and creative for BA, which is currently held by WPP though bespoke set-up Team Horizon.

Created by Ogilvy as part of Team Horizon, the ad features crew members from Captain Helen Wetton to ground operations lead Chelsea Rawlings, who – in a behind the scenes outtake – expresses his preference to be known as “the baton guy”, who brings on the aircraft with “a bit of dancing, a bit of criss-crossing and star jumps”.

The campaign was created by Tom Elliott-Mell and Jack Patrick, and directed by Andy McLeod through Rattling Stick. The media is handled by Wavemaker, while Hogarth also contributed to the campaign.

The aviation industry was pummelled by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on travel, with BA’s passenger numbers down by 85% between July and September, compared with the same period in 2019.

As a consequence, the airline has had to box clever with how it markets itself as the country and world tentatively reopen.

Head of brand and marketing Hamish McVey told Campaign: “One of the main things we’ve had to do over the last 12 months during the pandemic is be incredibly flexible and agile. There’s been a lot of change that’s gone on in terms of where people are flying to and the regulations for flying so we’ve had to make sure our marketing has adapted to those changing conditions.

"The other thing that has obviously changed is the need for us to reassure customers around flying safely during Covid, so we’ve created a lot of content around the customer experience when they come flying with us. We’ve had to adapt quite a lot.”

Indeed all crew in the ad are seen wearing face masks and all aircraft are doused in anti-bacterial sprays after each journey, but even persuading people to fly again sounds like a tall order when you consider the UK government has been doing everything it can to get them to stay put.

But McVey insisted the appetite to travel is still there. “There’s a lot of pent up demand, we know that from what we’ve been seeing and hearing… We want to make a really confident statement about British Airways, about our brand," he said.

"We’re in a very competitive market place so it’s important for us to give customers and potential customers the reassurance that when they fly with us they’re going to get that unique British Airways service, that’s the rationale for doing the campaign.”

The airline is no doubt bracing itself ahead of forecasted changes in coronavirus travel restrictions - with a risk-based traffic light system expected to be introduced from Friday.

While the ban on foreign holidays is expected to be lifted for people in England from 17 May, the traffic light system will feature different rules for returning travellers from the seventh, depending on which list their destination is on.

Individuals arriving from a green location will not have to quarantine, while those returning from somewhere on the amber list will have to self-isolate for at least five days.

The red list will require a 10-night stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750.

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