not a member? click here to sign up
The Situation Is Terminal
Shouldn't those who hailed the appointment of Willie Walsh as British Airways boss be cringing with embarrassment after the airline's part in the recent Heathrow Terminal 5 debacle?
Eamonn McCann, 01 May 2008
“If anyone knows how to get rid of excess baggage, it’s Walsh,” enthused Business Week magazine back in May 2005, announcing the arrival of Wee Willie Walsh as boss of British Airways.
Three years later, Wee Willie managed to get rid of baggage galore at Heathrow Terminal 5.
Should we be cringing with embarrassment on Willie’s account? Some of us, anyway?
Anyone who has ever waited in deepening alarm and dawning despair for the rucksack to come round on the carousel will know that losing your luggage on a ‘plane journey is no joke. But even so, contemplating the chaos engulfing British Airways’ brand new, £4.5 billion terminal, it was hard not to kick up your legs and laugh. Was there ever such a comprehensive, all-encompassing dumbfounding display of cack-handed incompetence?
I think not.
At the time of writing, four weeks after the onset of the shambles, thousands of items of luggage remain lost, flights are still being cancelled every day, travellers are stumbling around the vast Terminal building distraught, disorientated, stranded. A couple of middle managers have paid the price, been given the bum’s rush. But not Wee Willie. So far, his bum’s been super-glued to the CEO’s seat.
When Walsh was recruited to head up BA, Irish business correspondents were so puffed up with pride that Shane Ross momentarily resembled one of those gaudy birds of the Amazon forest who signal that they are ready for sex by inflating their preening equipment to unfeasible proportions. Here was one of our tigerish, Celtic, can-do guys going over to show the bumbling Brits how to restore the fortunes of what they’d once regarded as their National Airline. Willie was the very model of the modern corporate manager. Hadn’t he horse-whipped tired and flabby Aer Lingus into shape, hammering the unions, enforcing strict discipline, disposing of 2,000 workers (or “excess baggage”, as Business Week would have it) in no time at all. He had now become our national representative in the premiership division of the British business league, sporting the green shirt as he calmly prepared by whatever means necessary to make BA fit for free-market purposes. The Irish solution to an endemic British problem, Willie would show ‘em how to slough off the muck of old State-sector habits, strip out all restrictions on management’s inalienable right to manage, mould the workforce into a malleable mass, create a sleek and gleaming private-enterprise machine to take on and trounce any competitor who appeared in the market-place.