British Airways Change Management Case Study 

British Airways is a flag-carrier UK airline and aviation company. It started its journey in 1919; and adopted the current name in 1974 after the merger of four airlines and aviation companies. The company was going through heavy losses in the 1980s; Sir John King took the role of chairman of the company; and transformed the company’s culture by launching massive changes; it became profitable within two years. Today, we’ll discuss the British Airways change management case study; the historical; challenges and losses of BA, the leadership step of Sir John King in transforming the airline; dirtry tricks campaign under his leadership.

Historical Background of British Airways

  • 1919 – Aircraft Transport & Travel Company started its air transport operations
  • 1933 – added air travel route to Singapore and India
  • 1935 – British Airways came into existence after the merger of 3 small airlines
  • 1958 – completed the 1st jet trans-Atlantic service
  • 1974 – rebranded its name as British Airways
  • 1981 – Sir John King took the role of Chairman to make the company profitable
  • 1987 – BA became privatized
  • 1998 – an alliance of BA with American, Qantas, Canadian, and Cathy Pacific Airlines
  • 2007 – won various awards like Best Airline of Western Europe
  • 2020 – experience the pandemic crisis

Our focus of discussion would be precisely on the period of the 1980s; when British Airways was going through heavy losses. The Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher ordered the privatization of British Airways; Sir John King was appointed as the chairman of the company and his objective was to make the aviation company profitable.

Challenges and Losses to British Airways 

Some of the main challenges and losses that British Airways suffered in the British Airways change management case study are as follows;

  • Flaws in the company’s structure and business model
  • Passengers were avoiding to travel with British Airways
  • Customers were unhappy and dissatisfied with the company’s air travel due to uncomfortable journeys, old fleet of aircraft, and no time punctuality of flights
  • The productivity and profitability of British Airways were much lower than its competitive airlines

Leadership of Sir John King in British Airways 

Let’s discuss the change management and leadership of Sir John King in transforming the organizational culture of British Airways and making it profitable within a few years. Some of the main steps he took in saving the airline company in the British Airways change management case study are as follows;

Massive Layoff

Sir King launched a massive lay off and he removed approximately 22000 employees within the period of 3 years. His mass-scale layoff plan didn’t cause any type of strike; because he didn’t do it all at once; rather within the duration of 3 years. However, the workforce of British Airways reduced from 60,000 to 38000.

Excessive Staff

BA had more employees and workers than needed; they were increasing the company’s expenses and causing losses to the company. The company couldn’t take the bold step of layoff due to the fear of unions and strikes. Sir King did done successfully because he took various steps to boost the morale and confidence level of employees. He made the role of existing employees challenging and interesting; so that they could take interest and pride in their role and job.

Rigid Workplace & Organizational Culture

Along with the excessive employees, Sir King noticed that the BA’s organizational culture was rigid with limited communication at various levels of the organization. While achieving operational efficiency, he made the organizational culture and structure flexible by decentralizing power and autonomy.

It led the company to have an open flow of communication at different levels of the organization. Employee engagement helped the company to recognize problematic areas that needed urgent attention; the resolve them one by one.

Reorganized Routes & Fleet

When Sir King took the role of Chairman of British Airways; he observed that various routes weren’t profitable and the condition of BA’s aircraft was poor relevant to its competitors. He shut down approximately 16 routes to different countries and destinations that weren’t profitable at all; they were only increasing the expenses.

Along with shutting down the non-profiting routes, British Airways also invested a significant amount of capital resources in the repair and maintenance of existing aircraft. He also procured modern aircraft to improve the quality of its fleet size and give better experience to the customers.

Giving Priority to Customers

 Sir King hired Colin Marshall as the new CEO of British Airways and his job was very clear “to give top priority to the customers.” It is easier said than done; especially when the company is suffering heavy losses and experiencing various problems. He had done it successfully by empowering employees, decentralizing the power; training employees to be kind and respectful to customers; and launching the customer support service to improve the customer experience.

In the early 1980s, customers were avoid to travel with British Airways; because of the poor customer service and air travel experience. BA became the top choice of customers in the 1990s; the company’s slogan was in the 1990s “The World’s Favorite Airline.”

Dirty Tricks Campaign of British Airways 

Virgin Atlantic was the top competitor of British Airways. In order to compete against the top competitors; critics claimed that Sir King and his team launched dirty tricks to improve the marketing position of British Airways. Some of them are as follows;

  • Passengers of VA were pretending and lying about traveling with VA; they were actually traveling with British Airways
  • BA hacked the customer database of VA passengers; having the customer information, BA called their passengers and convinced them to switch to BA

Conclusion: British Airways Change Management Case Study |Airline Change Management Case Study | Leadership of Sir John King in Transforming British Airways 

After an in-depth study of the British Airways change management case study; we have realized that British Airways is the world’s leading airline. If you are learning about the airline change management case study; then you should keep in mind the abovementioned challenges to BA; the leadership of Sir John King in transforming the organizational culture and making the company profitable.

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