29 JUNE 2020


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Article from BTNews 29 JUNE 2020

COMMENT: BA - What next?

This publication is not keen on base airlines subcontracting, whether it be front desk, gate handling or telephone reservations. You cannot beat the enthusiasm and knowledge of front-line staff. 

To outsource is, in our view, an admittance of bad management.  True Ryanair has done it for years, but that carrier is distinctive low cost and has thrived on controversy.  It works for remote carriers with limited services for whom staffing at an isolated airport is not viable.

In-house must normally always be cheaper and more cost efficient. Why add a third party who also wants to profit?

The chirpy check in-staff know the aircraft, can suggest where to sit, and are also knowledgeable when things go wrong.  Likewise, at boarding.

BTN is not privy to any negotiations between British Airways and its trade unions but it does seem that the suggested ploy of transferring staff to Gatwick Ground Services (GGS) borders on irresponsibility. The travelling public will on the face of it see no difference but it is another step in downgrading the airline. 

Will the staff be in BA uniform (misrepresentation?) or a new bland outfit. We’ve mentioned the passion of the British Airways team.  Is that to be carried over?

Willie Walsh, IAG chief, has probably got an impossible task, but one wonders how Keith Williams, Rod Eddington or even Colin Marshall would have dealt with the problem?  They only had BA to deal with.  Walsh has Iberia, Aer Lingus (where he was once fired), Vueling and Level to look after.  The virtually invisible Alex Cruz fronts BA.

Long ago Marshall cut the numbers from 60,000 to 40,000 and Eddington did the same when the airline got bloated again.  Management goodwill takes years to build up.  Walsh goes in October, replaced by Luis Gallego (currently Iberia's Chief Executive), hardly known in London, the core of IAG’s business and where the airline is listed.  The sometimes amiable Cruz is rumoured to be taking over at Air Europa. 

If that is the case where is the new leader to come from with the skill, passion and experience to fly the BA flag?

The Sunday Times finally caught up with Walsh on Friday but a full page piece in the business section told us little that we don’t know.  BA purposely missed out on an Airlines UK hosted discussion with the airline minister and is not talking to the trade unions except BALPA. The financial figures are horrendous.  You can’t blame Walsh for that.  Where does Akbar Al Baker and Qatar Airways' 25.1% fit in?  Is that the next destination for the Dubliner?

As Britain’s national airline begins thankfully to put together a tentative long-haul programme out of Heathrow (see in this issue) there is no sign of life at Gatwick. When will it return?  Will it return?  London City Airport seems to have taken on the mantle of London’s second BA terminus.   Much as it is a fine airport surely that will not be the case for the future.

Not for the first time BTN (and clearly the Country) asks “just where is British Airways going?”


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OUR READERS' FINEST WORDS (All times and dates are GMT)

All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum

Richard Wiggins , UK

It’s ironical that the BA protest in Brighton about potential job cuts was held by the i360 which is staffed by personnel in BA uniform but they are in fact agency staff and not BA internal employees ! A professional GSP can manage all ground airline activities if trained , qualified and dedicated teams in just the same way as internal airline staff can and the cost ratio to an airline’s budget is that GSP employed agent is 50% of the gross cost of what an internal airline employee costs companies taking into account that GSP gets a fixed turnaround fee and can be terminated within 90 days IATA/SGHA contract with no further costs whereas internal employee will cost airline Salary/Shift pay/ classroom and legitimate mandatory classroom courses:NI/TAX/Sick pay/Annual leave/Pension/Cost of Living increases/length of service increments/Maternity and Paternity pay/COVID 19 isolation associated costs /etc .

Brett Holland, Bedfordshire

I think what you\'d fine is there will be penalty clauses etc written in to any ground handling contract so where there is a delay caused by an issue with the round handler then penalties will be in place. I\'d also like to say I worked for many years for a ground handler and I think if it is run well there is no reason why the customer service should be be worse than self handling. Agreed this takes work and commitment but if you engage with the teams and you have the airlines involvement to offer great team engagement I think there are lots of reasons why airlines would outsource. Plus there could potentially (and often would be) staff cost efficiencies as they may be working across a number of airline products - so I do slightly disagree with your point about it \'normally always\' being cheaper in house - it\'s often not!

franco mancassola, honolulu

BA is just a shadow of the former self. Covid19 just gave the airline the final push down the descent into mediocrity.

John Jones, West Ham

You can’t blame Walsh completely for the mess BA is in. Covick-19 is nightmare which we are still in the throes off. What you can blame Walsh for is the Spanish takeover of our National airline. Snr Gallego has a good track record but his London appearances have been rare. Will things change?