Good pay, the best perks: the staff loved the success

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The Independent Travel

When I started working for BA in 1979 on the check-in desk, things were a real mess. But that changed when Colin Marshall arrived in 1983 to ready the airline for privatisation.

He got staff feeling great about themselves and believing the company could be a real success. The atmosphere in the 1980s was fantastic, with a real feeling of invincibility.

The staff felt valued, because they were valued. BA was a good paymaster, particularly for frontline staff. And it offered many perks, the best of which was the concessionary travel.

The airline industry was considered a glamorous profession then. Staff felt they worked for the best airline in the world, and Lord King was coming out and publicly thanking them for BA's success.

Employees were given priority to buy shares when privatisation came in 1987, and some made a hell of a lot of money. People felt tied to the success of the airline. A lot of the 1980s managers had worked their way up. But the external recruitment drive in the early 1990s brought in people from other industries who knew the cost of everything and the value of nothing. Staff stopped trusting management, a situation exacerbated by Bob Ayling's 1996 cost-cutting. And though a few perks remain, staff often cannot get the flights they want. The pay is no better than BA's budget competitors.

But some of the changes Mr Ayling introduced, and those Rod Eddington is trying to push through, are important for the future of the company.

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