British Airways takes £400k comms business in-house

British Airways has moved the vast bulk of its consumer account out of Porter Novelli, leaving the agency hundreds of thousands of pounds out of pocket.

Cost-cutting: BA to take most of its project work in-house
Cost-cutting: BA to take most of its project work in-house

BA, which recently revealed a sharp drop in profits, said it was taking the work in-house ‘due to financial pressures’.

The development is a major blow for Porter Novelli, coming soon after the agency lost its lucrative Hewlett-Packard account (PRWeek, 26 June).

Porter Novelli MD Jean Wyllie said the agency had not made any redundancies as a result of the loss. However, three people have left the agency in recent months.

BA initially tried to play down the story. When first app-roached by PRWeek, Kate Gay, head of consumer PR, insisted BA was ‘absolutely not’ planning to drop Porter Novelli.

But this week a spokesman for the airline admitted: ‘The vast majority of our work will be taken in-house. Porter Novelli will be there to support BA but will not handle any project work. Our PR activity will not be reduced but will most likely increase. PR is just as important in a downturn as it is in the good times.’

The spokesman said the decision was not a reflection on Porter Novelli’s work, but was a result of the current economic environment.

The airline has no plans to expand its 40-strong in-house communications team.

Porter Novelli won the BA account in 2005, when it was worth about £400,000.

BA is the second brand to take its work in-house this month, following pizza brand Domino’s, which has pulled business out of Lexis PR.

Earlier this year, cereal giant Kellogg’s moved the majority of its consumer account in-house, having previously used PR agency Munro & Forster.

Timeline

10 November Four BA executives in court to face charges of fixing the price of fuel surcharges

7 November BA reveals half-year profits have fallen by 91 per cent to £52m

3 November Opening of Terminal 5 becomes a major PR disaster as BA and BAA are both blamed

20 May Internal inquiry into a plane crash earlier in the year reveals the crew prevented a worse accident

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