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Pledge by British Airways Boss to Reset Airline Falls Flat With ‘Demoralised’ Employees

Pledge by British Airways Boss to Reset Airline Falls Flat With ‘Demoralised’ Employees

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle promised to repair relations with employees during an internal event live-streamed to the airline’s 30,000 strong workforce on Friday. Doyle said he would ‘redefine’ BA’s place in the airline world and place a ‘premium proposition into the heart’ of everything that the carrier did.

“We want people to come off a British Airways flight and talk about it as if it’s something different,” Doyle told the Financial Times after the event.

The Irish executive will certainly have his work cut out – he has to somehow improve the often derided service British Airways offers customers while simultaneously paying back a huge debt mountain. At the same time, he’ll also have to repair a broken relationship with staff who were hard hit by BA’s tough cost-cutting measures in the early days of the pandemic.

This last task could be Doyle’s hardest. An internal employee satisfaction survey has made for “sobering” reading said several sources. Doyle has promised to address the concerns of staff but has made clear that there’s no money left to increase wages – the biggest concern amongst staff as the UK is plunged into a cost of living crisis.

Dodging questions about reversing pandemic era pay cuts, Doyle said the airline’s focus was paying back a £2 billion government loan. The money isn’t expected to be paid back in full until 2026 at the earliest so every decision the airline makes will be carefully scrutinised by the finance department for the foreseeable future.

Admitting that the airline made mistakes over how it handled staff cuts in 2020 when he wasn’t chief executive, Doyle said the airline was determined to learn from its mistakes.

Some employees were, however, less than convinced with the vision Doyle was sharing. Some said Friday’s event was even “more demoralising”.

Still, Doyle says he will put employees “back into the heart” of the company. Immediate measures to try to boost morale include unspecified improvements to the airline’s coveted concessionary staff travel benefits and parental leave.

Before the pandemic, Doyle’s predecessor managed to secure significant investment from parent company IAG for the much-improved Club Suite business class seat and this has continued even with the pandemic. But BA’s frugal approach will continue across much of the rest of the business.

“Any airline can go out and buy products off the shelf and put them on a plane,” Doyle says. “It’s actually the confidence and the style and the intimacy that we deliver in service that is going to be a differentiator.”

No wonder he is looking for the support of his staff.

View Comment (1)
  • BA really needs to invest in online self service / manage my booking functionality… allow customers to do more things online at a time that best suits them. Remove as many pain points as possible.

    Investing more in digital & ensuring it’s an awesome customer experience will reap rewards & improve their Net Promoter Score (NPS).

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