LEADER: Has BA learned from its biggest crisis yet?

It is easy to jump on the BA-bashing bandwagon (or should that be carousel?) but what does anyone - particularly British Airways - learn from the T5 debacle?

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

After all, the airline has had its fair share of 'PR crises' over the past decade, many covered in depth by this magazine. From the tail fins experiment in 1997 to the female employee's banned crucifix in 2007, the words BA and 'crisis' have found themselves as inextricably linked as Naomi and 'lawyer'.

To some extent this is inevitable given the British media. Equally, has there ever been a bank holiday without 'travel chaos'? A government investment without 'angry taxpayers'?

That said, BA has seen itself at better points on the reputational cycle. Under the personable leadership of Rod Eddington, things tended to go more smoothly.

Eddington invested a lot of effort in communication to both journalists and staff and employee morale seemed higher then. Of course he had to deal with the aftermath of 9/11, yet managed to create a Dunkirk spirit.

Although the current crisis was prompted largely by technical errors, two other factors seemed to exacerbate the problem.

The first was a lack of any apparent crisis comms plan. Journalists on the ground last Thursday tell of a dearth of leadership and information for many hours. And the decision to deny basic access to the BBC was ill-judged.

Second, there was an underlying sense of low staff morale. There were stories of baggage handlers walking off when the hitches started. Then, later this week, the GMB union was quick to criticise company 'systems' rather than its own staff.

BA's main long-haul rival Virgin has had its own problems with staff, noticeably last Christmas, but one would still expect its staff to pull together in a way that BA's did not. Certainly its boss, Sir Richard Branson, would not disappear until the following morning.

Email: danny.rogers@haymarket.com

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