British Airways remains one of the world's busiest airlines, but the entire industry has been savaged since the late 1990s by a seemingly endless series of obstacles, and BA has had its fair share of the industry's problems as well as several all its own. "The World's Favourite Airline" back in the 1980s, it has been overtaken by a succession of other carriers since then and now ranks 6th by international passengers. In the mean time the group has soldiered on with a series of no-holds-barred cost-cutting exercises, shedding around 13,000 staff between 2000 and 2004, and even dropping its loss-making flagship service Concorde in order to regain profitability. That led to a significant improvement in performance for several years before a new set of problems engulfed the airline in 2008, resulting in its worst financial results for more than two decades. In 2009, BA announced outline terms for a proposed merger with its Spanish counterpart Iberia. This news was overshadowed by renewed disputes with cabin crew which led to two extended walkouts during 2010. However, the merger went ahead regardless, with the creation of International Airlines Group. The group still has a volatile relationship with its staff - in 2019 even BA's pilots went on strike - but the constant cost-cutting has at least improved profitability. BA and Iberia are partnered within IAG by smaller carriers Vueling, Aer Lingus and Level. In 2019, it added Spanish carrier Air Europa, which has a stong profile in Latin America, for €1bn. British Airways was itself a founder member of the OneWorld Alliance with American Airlines, Qantas, Cathay Pacific, and others. Qatar Airways is among OneWorld's newer partners, and it has accumulated a sizeable minority holding in IAG, becoming its largest individual shareholder with a stake of over 21%. Former BA CEO Willie Walsh had headed IAG since its creation, but stepped down in 2020, to be succeeded by Iberia's Luis Gallego. British Airways CEO Alex Cruz also departed following a poorly managed layoff of staff in the wake of the Covid pandemic, and was replaced by Sean Doyle. Group revenues hit a high of €25.5bn in 2019, with net earnings of €1.7bn. However, Covid made an immense dent on performance for 2020, with revenues plunging to €7.9bn. Net loss was €6.9bn. British Airways contributed just under half of revenues and Iberia 29%. In 2019, a total of 118m passengers were carried across all group brands, with Revenue Passenger Kilometres of 285.7bn. Those figures fell to 31.3m passengers and 72.3bn RPK for 2020. IAG is the smallest by revenues of Europe's "Big Three" carriers sitting behind Lufthansa and Air France-KLM.
Capsule checked 27th August 2021
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Historical profile information for British Airways
Marketer Moves 3rd May 2021: New top marketer at British Airways. See Marketer Moves (members only).
Adbrands Daily Update 9th Jan 2020: Former BA CEO Willie Walsh, the outspoken creator and leader of International Airlines Group, is to step down in 2020. His successor is Luis Gallego, CEO of Iberia. BA's cabin crew and pilots, and perhaps also some passengers, might welcome Walsh's departure. His pugnacious approach to cost-cutting prompted repeated clashes with BA's unions as well as passenger complaints over declining standards in BA's cabin service.
Adbrands Daily Update 27th Aug 2019: In its centenary year, British Airways was embroiled once again in chaos partly of its own creation following the announcement of a planned walkout by pilots scheduled for three dates in September. The strike action follows increasingly bitter talks between the airline and the pilots' union BALPA. BA exacerbated the chaos by sending out an email to thousands of passengers telling them that their flights had been cancelled, but appears not to have put in place suitable procedures to handle the resulting deluge of complaints. The company said it received more than 60,000 phone calls and 52,000 Twitter messages over the long August holiday weekend. This was made worse still by the fact that the cancellation email also went out in error to many passengers whose flights were not due to be affected by strike action, and who mistakenly booked new flights in addition to their existing booking. BA's booking website crashed under the resulting overload. The latest problems follow a check-in systems failure earlier this month which forced the cancellation of around 120 flights to and from the airline's main hub at Heathrow Airport, affecting 20,000 passengers.
Adbrands Daily Update 10th Jul 2019: The UK's data protection regulator, the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) issued the first two fines to be levied for misuse of personal data under new GDPR laws. British Airways was fined £183m for compromising the personal information of around 500,000 customers. The following day, a fine of £99m was slapped on Marriott International for a massive four-year breach that involved the theft of personal information for 339m customers. In both cases, the breaches were not reported until late 2018, following the introduction of new regulations. BA and Marriott are appealing the penalties. Under GDPR, companies can be fined up to 4% of annual turnover for breaches of data security. The BA sum was equivalent to around 1.5% of revenues; and Marriott for 3%. Previously, the biggest fines ever issued by ICO were just £500,000 apiece to Facebook and Equifax. That was the maximum allowable under the old Data Protection Act of 1998. Under the new GDPR rules, the Facebook penalty could have been as much as $1.6bn.
Adbrands Social Media 1st Feb 2019: "Made By Britain". It pains me to say it, but I'm not remotely convinced by British Airways' new ad, which is the airline's first TV campaign for six years. WPP's dedicated Team Horizon agency (mainly Ogilvy) developed the spot. As a longtime flyer of the flag, I'd have to say that my recent experiences with British Airways have, sadly, fallen some way short of their past highs. They probably put on a good show for this cargo of celebrities, but most flights have none of the old polish and sparkle. Sadly, BA and parent IAG have chosen - for long haul anyway - to match the somewhat lower standards offered by most US airlines rather than chase the high ground now inhabited by Qatar and Emirates. A busload of B-list talent - Olivia Colman, Gary Oldman, Anthony Joshua, Grayson Perry, Paloma Faith etc - won't really change anyone's opinions.
Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Jun 2017: Hot on the heels of its disastrous IT meltdown, British Airways now faces further turbulence with a four day strike by cabin crew in mid-June. The latest walk-out is a protest against the suspension of free flights and other benefits for staff who took part in earlier strikes. BA has already suffered 26 days of industrial action this year.
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