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Communication - case study

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British Airways has long been a famous and world-renowned airline. However, it recently suffered a series of embarrassing and expensive wild cat strikes. These were carried out by members of staff who seldom earn more than 12,000 a year and who work shifts and flexitime. They do the difficult tasks of booking in passengers and handling baggage and other 'behind the scenes' activities that are essential for the smooth running of any business and especially an airline.

Management wanted to introduce a system of introduction of clocking-on swipecards for clocking in at the start and end of a shift and for the calculation of pay. To most members of the public this may have seemed a rather minor issue, but this was not the case with the employees. A distinctly disruptive reaction was immediately shown and within a few hours thousands of passengers had either not got away to their destinations or had left but without any of their baggage. At one time during the dispute over 80,000 individual pieces of luggage were not with their rightful owners.

After several days of discussions between unions and management the card system was put on 'hold' for a while and the employees went back to work. The stoppage cost BA an initial 40 million pounds and the knock-on effects on customer loyalty may take several years to be fully analysed.


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Question 1

Examine whether the situation that arose at BA is largely one of poor communication.

Question 2

To what extent, and in what ways, might BA's size have hindered the effective communication of this change in work practice?

Question 3

Discuss whether there is a 'hidden agenda' behind the BA changes.