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Continuing Turbulence at British Airways
Strike Action by Cabin Crew Looms Yet Again
By Shane Clarke
London Correspondent
Continuing turbulence at British Airways

The phrase, “Here we go again,” comes to mind. Haven’t we been here before? British Airways cabin crew are threatening strike action again over cost-cutting measures at the beleaguered airline. Their union, Unite, is in talks with British Airways management under the auspices of the TUC. The deadline for reaching an agreement is 5 pm today (Tuesday 9th March), but the management have asked for an extra 24 hours.

The bottom line is that British Airways is an airline in freefall, and it won’t be long before people start reaching for the parachutes. Needless to say, there won’t be enough for everyone.

This latest row ignited over proposed pay-cuts for cabin crew in an attempt to save £60 million. Unite have made an offer of 2.6%, which they say will more than meet the necessary cost-cutting target. However, airline management are not entirely convinced, so negotiations are continuing.

Walter Raleigh once said, “An employer generally gets the employees he deserves.” I understand my local zoo is closing down and the monkeys are going to be looking for new jobs soon.

It confounds and distresses me that this once great airline now finds itself in this situation. Can this really be the proud flag carrier that used to be the envy of other carriers around the world? Is this really the company whose big shiny planes I used to look at pictures of when I was a child and dream of the day when I would fly on one of them?

So how did we get to this situation? What is it that has led our national airline into this nosedive?

You can blame the credit crunch, or competition, perhaps even terrorism, but as far as I’m concerned the problem lies squarely at the feet of a succession of managers that are about as much use as a one-legged man in a penalty shoot out. One of the previous management’s most ridiculous decisions was to give up being the national flag carrier in favour of various meaningless daubing on the tails of their fleet. They gave up being the national flag carrier! Did no one within that organisation speak up and say, “Oi, stupid! We are British Airways, we’re Britain’s national airline; it’s flag carrier. The clue’s in the name.”

Virgin Atlantic immediately stepped in and took on the mantle of flag carrier. From a marketing standpoint, this is a major coup.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, BA then decided to focus their efforts on business class travellers, at the expense of economy class. This essentially handed those economy customers on a plate to Virgin Atlantic, who were more than happy to step forward with open arms and say, “Come to us; we’ll take good care of you.” Ironically, BA used to run television adverts with a song that went, “We’ll take good care of you. Fly the flag. Fly the flag.” So, if Virgin want to save a bit of money on advertising they can buy the rights to that song, because it’s more applicable to them nowadays.

Okay, so as if that lot wasn’t bad enough, they then decided to pursue what can only be called “questionable practices”. These resulted in fines somewhere in the region of £400 million. And the funny part...they got Virgin Atlantic involved in their last scam and then Virgin blew the whistle on them.

It kind of makes you wonder if the BA management actually work for Virgin and that Willie Walsh, the head of BA, is actually Richard Branson in disguise. That could certainly explain why BA seem to be handing the British airline industry to them on a plate.

Anyway, at the end of the day, British Airways need to save £60 million. I think I can help them there: Remember those monkeys I mentioned earlier? Put them in charge – they can’t do a worse job than the current management, and they will certainly be a lot cheaper. There’ll be no six-figure salaries with them in charge. I’m sure BA could secure their services with an offer of fresh fruit every day and a tyre to swing on.



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Shane Clarke serves as London Correspondent for The Seoul Times. He has been involved in humanitarian work for numerous years. He’s also a freelance management consultant. Having completed an honors degree in Law at Wolverhampton University, he then moved on to an MBA at Warwick Business School. He’s heavily involved in the fight against international parental child abduction to Japan.

 

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