Managers pay the price for T5 fiasco

BA has revealed its brilliant plan to resolve the chaos at Terminal Five: fewer managers...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

British Airways said today that two of its senior managers – director of operations Gareth Kirkwood and director of customer services David Noyes – will be leaving the airline following T5’s catastrophic first few weeks. And rather than finding a replacement for both men, BA plans to appoint one person to cover both roles. Apparently it’s decided that if two people couldn’t do the jobs properly, one person spending half as much time on each was far more likely to work…

It looks as though Kirkwood and Noyes are being made scapegoats for the fiasco that T5’s opening has become, and they probably won’t get much sympathy – certainly not from the thousands of people who lost their bags, spent hours in queues, or had their flights cancelled altogether. Particularly since most of them had a terrible time trying to find out why. In fact, we reckon that the majority of people will have expected heads to roll.

On the other hand, it doesn’t exactly chime with BA boss Willie Walsh’s insistence that he was taking personal responsibility for the T5 turmoil. When he spoke to the papers immediately after the disastrous opening, he insisted that: ‘The buck stops with me’. This rather suggested to us that he wasn’t planning to sack two key underlings, but clearly we missed a nuance somewhere…

Of course it may be that this is an act of self-preservation by Walsh, who’s due to meet his irate shareholders this week to reassure them that things aren’t quite as bad as the papers would have them believe. With the exit of Kirkwood and Noyes, he can at least claim that he’s taken steps to address BA’s failings – although it’s not likely to help him get his long-haul flights taking off any quicker (they were due to start on April 30, but this date has now been pushed back to June at the very earliest), or to recover the £16m he’s already lost on T5 (and that’s not to mention the untold reputational damage).

What’s more, since Walsh is effectively going to be doing their jobs until he finds a replacement, there’s now nowhere to hide. If things go from bad to worse, his shareholders will bust him out of Heathrow faster than – well actually, not very fast at all, if T5 has anything to do with it…

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