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Julian Bray provides: Opinion, comment, forward thinking speculation on Travel, Cruise & Aviation: conflict zones, terrorist impact, drone (UAV) issues, safety (black boxes, emergencies), airline operations, aviation finance, political implications, and all forms of incident risk. Worked at board level with several airline and aviation groups, including Alitalia, British Island Airways, British Airways, Galileo , British Aerospace, Skyways, former CEO City firm Leadenhall Assoc. Founder CNS City News Service. Director NTN Television News (joint co. with ITV Wales TWW) Debretts People 2017 and in launch edition of PRWeek Black Book.

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Saturday, 27 March 2010

God Save Us All & British Airways from Academia! The Duckhouse View

Unite!Join the turkeys voting for Christmas!

You really have to wonder when the British Airways arch rival Ryanair extends the welcome mat and makes several fully crewed aircraft immediately available to British Airways during the current ill thought out strike by BA Heathrow Cabin Crew.

If ever there was a case of grossly mutant mega sized Bernard Matthew production line turkeys (i've seen them - legs as thick as a human arm) voting for Christmas this is it. BA say they will still get some 70 percent of flights away but at an astronomical cost to the airline and damage to the industry in general.

Clearly Unite has overlooked the looming imposition of Air Passenger Duty due from November 2010 which means a family of four will in future face a mind blowing 325% increase in this loopy APD tax, over 2006 rates!  

You also have to seriously question why a gaggle of lecturers and assorted academics have collectively been wasting University funding and facilities whilst claiming to have specialist industrial relations knowledge to write a dire badly argued pool letter to the Guardian newspaper (and don't say no one else would publish it!) castigating Willie Walsh for trying to save the airline and refusing to rollover and have his tummy tickled by the increasingly bolshy Unite Union.


At the end of the day, the Unite executive will keep their jobs and gold plated pensions as countless BA Cabin crew stare into the unemployment abyss; joining the ever increasing ranks of the unemployable (what else can - possibly mislabelled as militant and middle aged  - ex BA cabin crew usefully do?) 

Passengers are already voting by flying with other airlines, business passengers now being strongly advised, if not ordered by worried financial directors to trawl the internet for the cheapest travel deal, not just the in-flight experience or topping up the loyalty program points tally; that is very 1970's!     

The sad truth is that the academics (about to feel their own wind of austerity change as Uni budgets get a 30 per cent chop...) are simply living in another world, trotting out lectures that might have made a difference in the 70's but way out of place in the recession near depression 21st Century.

I make no secret of the fact that I really don't like the Walsh abrasive hands off style of management and his preferred method of communication, the You-Tube video. I also hate the idea that he seldom wears a tie and looks as if he picks them from the cheapo rack at ASDA, but that is a personal gripe I've yet to change. His personal dress down weekday daily presentation and 'bovver boy' cropped haircut, not out of place on the "Eastenders" set.

The reality is the second BA strike is now happening and that will run up another £20 million in costs and wisely Wille Walsh has made it clear that everytime this group of employees (remember he has already filed new agreements with BALPA pilots and Gatwick based crew)they will also be out of pocket. Once the Heathrow crews mince out on strike,  they have been warned they immediately and permanently  lose any customary non contracted benefits, so out goes free flights, discounted flights, family flights, upgrades to business, family concessions and a host of other non contractual 'goodwill' concessions. Hmm, not looking so good now.

Deals conditional on deadlines are put on the table and then taken off, rather in the manner of a 'Law & Ordcer' plea bargain! Mr Walsh has also now ensured shareholders funds are not needlessly paying for repositioning layovers and additional rest days due to the strike; even just one day freezing on the picket line or in a muddy field at Bedfont football club, will see some two weeks salary and expenses culled. Ouch! The Union clearly didn't see that one coming!

The impendiing tie up with American Airlines will see staff, aircraft and flight reductions, the strike providing valuable practical data as to how customers react under strike conditions. A human living focus group providing free and informative feedback with digital quality pictures and movies on you-tube, facebook and twitter. All gleefully uploaded for free by the great British public. 

So where do the parties go from here?  The Unite inspired all or bust approach has to go and quickly. Its good for Unite publicity but highly damaging to to the Unite membership, all acting like sheep to the Unite bidding. 

BA Staff have to be told the unvarnished truth about the real world of aviation, the BA books fully opened (as they already are, being a public company) but being explained in detail in terms that non academics and economists can clearly understand. "We are going bust and will not be around in a few years time this is why....."

Political interference in this shareholder owned commercial company has to stop from all political parties. The incoming Government (or those who aspire to Government) must make it clear to one and all that bail out money isn't available (UK is near bust as well!) and if BA goes bust them so be it. Others will eagerly fill the void in this shrinking marketplace.

If BA were to go out of business the ripple effect will be felt far and wide and literally hundreds of small to medium size support businesses will also feel the pinch, lay off staff, close shop. 

Rather than striking, its time for ACAS to work the magic it once had and get the parties talking and thrash out a new agreement. Lock them in if required. Put a timetable on it and if no resolution, start writing out the P45's, by which time it will be winter and the new Government will be well into its cost reduction programme and the unemployment lines getting longer; no fast check in for former BA crew or anyone else for that matter... its grim down south. 

END   
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