Brainfood: Sir Rod Eddington - If I had to start again ...

Knowing what I know about aviation and how tough it is, I'd have to doubt my sanity if I said yes to having a career in it again. But I've enjoyed every minute of it, so I wouldn't necessarily do it any differently. I was an academic before I got into business, so I made a conscious decision to make the move and I've never regretted that. Anyway, you can't live your life looking in the rear-view mirror.

by
Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Aviation is a complicated, dynamic, scary game in many ways. Economically, airlines have a history of destroying shareholder value rather than creating it, and that's because the business is too fragmented and over-regulated - but it is a fascinating industry. The 9/11 terrorist outrage was a seminal moment for British Airways, and as I was chief executive, it was a seminal moment for me. That was the most challenging time of my career.

Surviving 9/11 as an organisation has probably been the greatest challenge. People thought that after that, we'd be broke - £6 billion of debt on our balance sheet and losing £1 million to £2 million a day. It's pretty scary if you're someone who works in a company like that, whether you're the chief executive or the most junior member of staff. Because we have collectively come through that, the airline is in much better shape now.

My predecessors and I did what we thought was right on our watches. With the gift of hindsight, though, some of those decisions have proved to be less than perfect - that's life. Treat defeat as a lesson, not a loss. You are party to some good decisions and some not-so-good decisions; you learn from both and move on. The trick is not to repeat the same mistake. Sir Rod Eddington joined the Swire Group in 1979 and left in 1996 as MD. He was executive chairman of Ansett Airlines from 1997 to 2000, and was appointed chief executive of British Airways in 2000. He is due to step down in September.

Find this article useful?

Get more great articles like this in your inbox every lunchtime

Subscribe

Get your essential reading delivered. Subscribe to Management Today