Business Travel Show Europe Kick Off, 23 February,
Global Travel Risk Summit Europe, May 2023,
3rd Annual Sustainable Business Travel Summit
COMMENT: Heathrow ” Enquiry wanted.
Hopefully today we can look at the disastrous industrial problems at Heathrow in retrospect, but this may not be the case and in any event the practical implications will linger on until the end of the week at least with the repercussions yet to be seen.
There are two separate disputes currently up for discussion at Heathrow, not connected in any legal sense. That the world”s second largest catering company, with 160 flight kitchens in 34 countries around the globe cannot sort out its industrial relations in a professional manner begs serious questions of its local management. But then it is up against a very skilled trade union whose media sense leaves many British organisations behind. Don”t believe all you read in the newspapers.
As regards British Airways this is the third year in a row that problems have arisen with ground staff at Heathrow. The mass ”downing of tools” by the airside personal was totally synchronised and you have to be very naive not to see the hand of the Transport and General Workers” Union behind the scenes. Without getting into an area considered ”hot”, the ethnic make-up of the two groups would hardly make for mutual understanding. And it is no good BA saying how good it has been in turning around the airline in recent times. A carrier that controls 40% of the slots at the world”s busiest international airport ought to be a success story. The British Airways staff who walked out will just be docked for the hours lost. No disciplinary action taken! Surely some kind of punishment should be invoked even if only a loss of perks. And the total closing down of the airline at Heathrow, can that be justified? Gate Gourmet says it supplied basic foodstuff. Passengers have been known to carry bags to aircraft on previous occasions. BA has a huge public relations team and a sophisticated communications system. Surely it was better to give out some news rather than no news at all. Why close all the check-in facilities at the various terminals? What happened to the staff? Were they sent home to watch, rather like Nero, whilst their jobs burnt? In one of the busiest weeks of the year just to abandon customers seems to be indefensible. Get some of the ”planes away. Everyone knows the ”knock on” effects.
One has to ask the question. If not for the trouble due to Gate Gourmet might there still have been problems for BA at Heathrow this August? BA is a great airline with some wonderful enthusiastic staff, but it seems it is being let down by a resentful minority and some serious management problems. Nothing appears to have changed since last year or the year before. Or is the strike a prelude to festering industrial trouble caused by the consolidation of British Airways services into the single Terminal 5 in the spring of 2008? It will be a great opportunity for the airline to increase efficiency all round with better equipment and facilities particularly regarding baggage handling. Staff reductions will be required.
The obituaries have not yet been written on Rod Eddington”s short tenure at British Airways. He has steadied a rocky ship and kept the city happy. The airline”s image has improved but not reached any highs. Its marketing has come in for much criticism and its operations unit seriously questioned for the third year running. When Willie Walsh takes over on 1 October his first objective is to ensure that ”Anguish August” does not befall the carrier in 2006 and that the number one target, the passenger, is always kept happy. The world”s sometime ”favourite airline” needs to get itself back on course. Quickly.