MARKETING SUPERSTARS;BRITISH AIRWAYS' CLUB EUROPE;PETER LINEY

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LONDON-Sept. 12, 1994, was a nerve-racking day for Peter Liney. He was handling British Airways' largest-ever single-product launch for Club Europe, a revamped pan-European business-class service.

That was pressure enough, but Mr. Liney, 36, had twice had trouble on BA takeoffs. The unlucky group brands manager broke BA's World Traveller service the same day as the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

The launch for Club World and First Class service was little better, coinciding with the resignation of the U.K.'s Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, an event that preoccupied the media and public attention.

But No. 3 was a charm, taking off without a bump and flying smoothly ever since. Mr. Liney, in fact, was promoted soon after the $150 million relaunch to general manager-alliance BA Qantas.

"They probably moved me because they decided I was too high-risk," joked Mr. Liney, who resuscitated the struggling Club Europe into a vital force for the airline. Club Europe's net revenue soared to $960 million annually from $885 million before the launch, and he and his staff helped change losses on many Club Europe routes to double-digit growth.

"Going back three or four years ago, we were losing brand share. Club Europe was declining at a horrific rate," he said. "People weren't buying the product."

Club Europe suffered from "a perception that the brand no longer delivered value for money," he said, partly because its seats were identical to those in economy.

Mr. Liney focused the improved Club Europe on speed on the ground and space in the air, helping business travelers make their workday more efficient. BA introduced phone check-in throughout Europe, a dedicated "fast-track" line for Club Europe passengers through passport and security checks, new Club Europe lounges and competitively priced chauffeured cars to and from the airport.

And increasing business passengers' in-flight room, Mr. Liney said, "has the rational appeal of giving people more room to work on the aircraft, and it has the emotional appeal of justifying the premium paid for the product."

BA spent $68 million to install seats 15% bigger, with five to a row rather than the six used previously. The cabin's dark blue interior went a shade lighter, and meal choices became more flexible, with a snack option.

The airline invested $30 million more to market Club Europe, including a campaign by Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, London.

"There was a general will within the company to fix the problem," Mr. Liney said of the relaunch. "BA is a very service-driven company, and people wanted to improve the product."

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