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British Airways is Facing a “Summer of Discontent” Warns Cabin Crew Union With Demands For Change

British Airways is Facing a “Summer of Discontent” Warns Cabin Crew Union With Demands For Change

british airways. Photo Credit: Arie Wubben via Unsplash

British Airways is facing the potential for a “summer of discontent” and chief executive Sean Doyle must “go beyond well-meaning words” if he is to fix the mess, warns a cabin crew union that represents the vast majority of flight attendants at the cancellation-prone airline.

The carrier has nixed thousands of flights from its schedule over the summer to cope with post-pandemic staff shortages and Doyle has embarked on a major shakeup of key management figures in an attempt to fix problems at the beleaguered airline.

In a scathing memo sent to cabin crew on Thursday, the BASSA union said: “Let’s face it, no crystal ball is needed to see that things are not going well at British Airways.”

Until now, Doyle has enjoyed broad support from cabin crew but patience appears to be wearing thin already.

“Vital staff are missing everywhere, and the customer experience is not what it was or should be, as the airline’s recovery is hampered by both staff and product shortages combined with endless IT failures.”

“It would be easier to feel sympathy (for British Airways) if all of these were not self-inflicted but they were,” the memo continues.

In recent days, BA’s head of customer experience has been replaced after Tom Stevens stepped down from the role after just one year, while the head of IT has also been replaced and chief operations officer Jason Mahoney has had his remit reduced.

The BASSA union blames huge pandemic job losses enacted by ousted former CEO Alex Cruz for many of the problems now facing the airline.

“How management got it so wrong is a mystery but they did. Passengers have come flooding back but we simply no longer have the resources to carry them,” the memo continues.

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Photo Credit: British Airways

The union says “painfully slow” recruitment is the result of low pay that is failing to attract candidates. British Airways says it has had plenty of interest in cabin crew jobs but security vetting processes are holding back recruitment.

The airline has, however, admitted that it is struggling to find enough job hunters for a swathe of ‘below wing’ ground-based jobs.

“Sean Doyle is undoubtedly trying to change things for the better but that must go beyond well-meaning words, into well-meaning and visible actions,” the memo warns.

BASSA says it has already asked for a pay rise scheduled for later this year to be brought forward and wants an earlier review of pay rates due to the developing cost of living crisis.

The union has also complained that “significant elements” of a negotiated contract between the airline and cabin crew that sets out working conditions haven’t yet been introduced and that excuses for the delays are “wearing rather thin”.

A system of tax-free allowances has also come under fire with the union claiming that cabin crew can’t afford to buy food in certain high-cost destinations.

Earlier this year, the union which represents check-in staff, gate agents and other ground-based frontline workers warned passengers of a “summer of chaos”.

“Moral is at an all-time low after BA’s shameful attack on workers during the pandemic,” the GMB union told Doyle in an open letter back in February.

In recent weeks, the airline has started to train office-based middle managers as cabin crew, check-in staff and baggage handlers in the event of future ‘disruption’.

View Comments (4)
  • British Airways is dying a slow death. Hopefully a summer of strikes finishes it off and we can all stop complaining about the awful service, high prices and incompetent management.

  • Tom Stevens is a really creepy guy. He was on a flight and was leering over the male cabin crew. If he paid more attention to the customer and not on behaviour boarding on sexual harassment in the workplace then maybe BA wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in!

  • Dear Sean.
    I had the opportunity to talk to Tom Stevens about two particular ways of how we work on board that should be addressed urgently and can both be fixed easily. He quickly agreed that I had made a significant and valid observation but I could tell quickly after that that he didn’t really know or have the skills to act, so he said that Amy James (head of IFCE, for PYOK readers, that’s the department that includes cabin crew) and Sajida Ismail (Head of Inflight Product) were constantly observing and analyzing these areas. (In other words: he was fobbing off any possible action) That was a year ago and nothing has happened and I have never had any more feedback although what I said was supposed to have been fed back to Amy and Sajida.
    I joined BA some years back from Etihad where I spent more than six years working exclusively in the premium cabins. What really shocked me was that our efficient and customer-focus/delivery methods were apparently designed – if Linked In is a valid source – by Sajida Ismail. I tried to talk to her but that was a brick wall.
    The management you have in place at IFCE are not up to the tasks. Amy comes and goes, when she comes she repeats herself over and over about why the aspect of The Agreement – Crew Swap – is continually delayed. But no one will stand up and and say “I will take charge of this.” Everyone sits around gazing at his navel. BASSA is quickest to act when populist issues like money are involved because that grabs all of our attention but other things are important too.
    What is Calum Laming able to do that Tom Stevens was not? To be honest, when I saw his intro video sent to us the other day I was struck by how similar he and Tom Stevens present themselves.
    Does Calum Laming know, or will he be steer away from knowing what it is like on board a full 77H with 76 club world seats with less than adequate number of crew? Will he be aware that the galley position was left to the last person on the working position list who didn’t want that job because people with higher priority chose the easier jobs sometimes leaving the least experienced member with the busiest and most product responsible job? I have asked Matt Whipp about that but he too busy turning BA operating procedures into Virgin Atlantic. Why does the head of safety have so much influence over a product and delivery matter?
    Now I have been flying for 14 years and I love what I do but I am applying to Qantas, not just because I am Australian and have a design to go home eventually but because I know their product and so long as I am still in the UK I want to be rid of these problems that are too slow and too hard to get rid of because of the inertia in every management level below you.

    • Your spot on Christie about the working positions.. It’s been fed back and fed back but nothing is done.

      I think some of our Leadership Team have been here far too long and are living in some sort of parallel universe. As you say, our leader occasionally makes an appearance then she disappears for weeks on end.

      We’re told crew swap can’t be introduced because of “ IT” issues yet they are able to bring forward and soon implement our “ Flexi Month”.

      I was hoping Calum Laming would different but in his last video all he did was tell us how wonderful everything was and how great we all were. He clearly needs a grasp of reality.

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