Saturday, March 29, 2008

This is what you get for the money!

I couldn't let the British Airways Heathrow Terminal 5 story go by this week without a comment. I live in a third world country where two years ago they moved from one airport to another 25 kilometers away overnight and still had passengers flying with their baggage the next day. So why couldn't British Airways, and maybe the British Airports Authority (BAA), get it right?

Well you would have to go back to 1981 with British Airways when Maggie Thatcher put John King, later Lord, in as chairman of the company to set about privatising it. Two years later he brings in Colin Marshall to run it and from then on you have a history of job losses, bad labour relations and crooked dealings. While the Tories held up British Airways as what could be done by privatisation, experienced travellers avoided the airline like the plague. If it hadn't had its sinicured atlantic flights out of Heathrow it would have died years ago.

I suspect I could make a similar case about the now Spanish owned BAA. How did British Airways hope the move would work out when the staff-management relations are so very poor. Where was the needed enthusiasm from the labour force meant to come from. The whole Thatcherite policy on privatisation needed a beaten labour force to make these companies succeed without state support. The chairmen of these companies were picked to do the job. You only have to think back to bringing Ian MacGregor in as head of the coal industry.

So which of the many companies privatised have worked out as successes. Sure there has been some success for asset strippers and those that hold a near monopoly position in their industry, but for the customers and staff there has not been an overall benefit. Will train commuters in the UK claim they are better off. I suspect not many of the remaining small shareholders feel particularly happy. Those in British Airways should demand a change in management at the very least. How about those who invested into the Channel Tunnel. I guess the then Tory cabinet didn't put anything into that one.

Read Diamond Geezer, he was there.

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