BA Show How Not To Do It

My favourite whinge topic has just had another airing. Sorry about the pun but airlines are in the news again. This time BA response to a monumental cock-up shows how not ‘to fly to serve’.

Have you noticed the biggest corporate PR screw ups come from companies with two initials in their name. BA, VW and BP come to mind.

To fly to serve, the motto of BA has bitten them so hard in the bum it is going to hurt big-time. Their only income over the next year is probably to come from the textbook that is to follow; “How to create a magnificent crisis – without trying”.

Crucially in the preparation stage you need to out-source everything and thereby  sack everybody who knows what to do, especially in a crisis. This saves a fortune in payroll and then you can blame Indian IT after all they can hardly defend themselves. They may even be completely unaware the lights actually went out. And here’s a clever part, apparently the massive failure may have been caused by a ‘power surge’, except if you play this hand make sure the power supplier doesn’t say no such surge took place.

A vital point in the process is to avoid all classic PR mantras, after all this is the new world. Thus never appear in public to reassure and take charge. BA introduced this approach went terminal five baggage handling system went AWOL during the building opening days and the BA Director of Communications was seen running away just before a press briefing. BP also adopted this concept during the ill fated Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. And VW just resorted to telling lies.

And  so the front line BA staff including contractors had no information to give out to frustrated passengers. Having smashed 78,000 peoples travel arrangements BA by default tried  to make the most of the situation by recharging passengers for recovery flights on BA. And to help passengers  insisted the stranded passengers booked their own on going flights because you can also charge them for using the premium fee phone lines operated by BA to re-book flights. And charge extra to upgrade if these are the only seats available.

The once loved British Airways; “to fly to serve” has potentially been dealt a massive brand shot in the foot entirely of their own making. With the scope of service and conditions being ever reduced to that of a budget airway, they have even managed to screw that up.

There remains a host of unanswered questions and recriminations. How they are to repair the damage to the name of BA is yet to be seen. The problem lies in the senior guys who failed to be aware of the implications of what they were trying to achieve before the lights went out. IAG the owners of BA have just announced a very healthy improved profit. But BA, like Icarus, misjudged things and flew too close to the sun. Maybe the most damning criticism is they had no obvious disaster plan programmed to counter Murphy’s law: ‘if it can happen it will happen’

The only happy guy in the entire situation is Oscar Munoz, CEO of United Airways. He has been toppled from the top spot of Man with a Weird Mission by Alex Cruz CEO of British Airways.

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