BA's Willie Walsh handles PR double-whammy successfully

British Airways' handling of the failed court injunction against further strikes from its cabin crew and record annual losses has been viewed as successful.

Cabin crew: strikes will continue
Cabin crew: strikes will continue

Appearing in a round of interviews this morning that included Sky News and Radio 4's Today Programme, chief executive Willie Walsh discussed both the ongoing dispute with trade union Unite and record annual losses of £531m.

Walsh told Sky News this morning: 'We can face up to any competition. What we can't deal with is a trade union that wants to destroy the business.'
Fishburn Hedges chairman Neil Hedges said that Walsh ‘stood up well'.
‘He came across as very rational about it all. And he also suggested that the relationship he has with the joint leaders of Unite was actually a reasonable one. He referred to them by their christian names, which came across well.'
Hedges added that the airline needed to convey to its passengers what it is doing to protect their flights, which he said BA has done successfully.
‘He (Walsh) said he will give them a guarantee that flights will run, so I think they've done reasonably well.'

Bell Pottinger head of issues and crisis management Alex Woolfall praised Walsh’s use of the company website to stake his case directly to customers.

‘It allows him to communicate directly with a range of stakeholders, unedited and also bypassing the media to some extent,’ said Woolfall. ‘I think this will become more and more common in long running crises.’

‘Ten years ago, a tour of the TV studios was the only real option. Now the Internet means there's an alternative to calling a press conference, schlepping from studio to studio and hoping the media will report what you want them to. Willie Walsh is doing both of course, but his use of the BA website, in my view, humanises him, allows him to position himself on the side of the customer. Which is exactly where he needs to be.’

BA issued a press statement yesterday saying that it is ‘very disappointed' that Unite's appeal has been upheld and that the union intends to go ahead with its ‘unjustified and pointless strikes'.
‘Unite's strikes have failed twice and they will fail again,' the press statement goes on.

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