BA put customers last

BABritish Airways – was once state-owned and nicknamed ‘Bloody Awful’

Then, in the 80s under Lord King and Colin Marshall, it transformed itself into the ‘World’s Favourite Airline’, not least by delivering the now-famous PPF (Putting People First) course to all staff, some 200 at a time, who assembled at upmarket venues such as the ‘Rose Room’ at Twickenham rugby ground to consider:

  • The importance of putting their external and internal customers first
  • The expectations of those customers
  • Ways to improve the quality and service levels offered them


The great majority of employees found the day useful and enjoyable – they liked being able to question their bosses direct, and to have their views listened to – it was not the norm – and the culture change sought undoubtedly followed, plus many years of success

Sadly, decades later, BA have allowed their favoured status with customers to slip back and, according to John Arlidge in the Sunday Times, their choice is now ABBA – ‘Anyone But BA’


Arlidge says:

  • Luggage is lost more frequently
  • Staff are increasingly unhelpful, grumpy and distant
  • Free food and drink on short-haul flights have been scrapped
  • Most planes are old and more crowded than competitors as they try to squeeze more bums on seats
  • Economy seats have less legroom than even RyanAir
  • Business class has become worse than most competitors – typically eight seats across versus four on Singapore Airlines, say


The result?

BA is now thought to have returned to its previous ‘Bloody Awful’ status:

  • According to the Skytrax World Airline Awards, BA has slumped to 40th, seven slots below Virgin Atlantic and 10 slots below Aeroflot
  • BA even admits its own surveys show a mere 45% of passengers are satisfied with the service they receive


How so?

Arlidge says it’s through perpetual cost-cutting despite continuing to make major annual profits

Hence, one was not too surprised when BA recently suffered a catastrophic breakdown of its computer operating system bringing all its flights to a standstill – weddings were ruined, family reunions scrapped, holidays cancelled, sports fixtures postponed

BA management were accused of reacting badly by failing to keep their thousands of stranded passengers informed about what was going on – even their front-line staff were also kept in the dark yet left to deal with all those frustrated customers whilst managers apparently did nothing – clearly, BA have many questions to answer on how such a core system could so easily breakdown completely, with no instant back-up

Staff cuts and underinvestment in vital IT systems were blamed:

  • There had been three large-scale IT crashes in the 12 months before the meltdown
  • Nevertheless, one technician employee said: “Our systems are old and fragmented – inadequately tested for disasters and business-continuity”
  • Fights with the unions, bitter strikes and loss of perks hadn’t helped either


According to The Times, the IT failure itself was ‘inexcusable’ – the failure to keep customers and staff  informed was ‘lamentable’ – ‘the airline’s reputation, so carelessly lost, will not be easy to recover’

CEO Alex Cruz’s big idea to regain its top billing is to split BA in two, offering a premium airline at the front and a budget one at the back – a focus on quality and service when you turn left, cheap price when you turn right as you fly to the best and best-located airports via the biggest route network

But this policy will have no chance of succeeding unless ‘he wins back the loyalty of his staff and their love for the airline’

Hence, he might well consider investing in a re-run of the PPF campaign – new food, wine and planes will not deliver results needed if staff remain ‘as grumpy as they are now’


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