Eight days ago, executives at British Airways were congratulating themselves on heading off a potentially disastrous strike by the airline's 10,000 ground staff and baggage handlers. Management, led by Rod Eddington, the Australian chief executive, were still in high spirits when they returned to work on Monday morning. But over the following two days BA was plunged into chaos - 70 European flights were cancelled, leaving 10,000 passengers stranded, some condemned to a night of sleeping on the floor at Heathrow. BA could not pin the blame on industrial action, air-traffic control computer glitches or even security fears. The lame excuse was staff shortages, foul weather and a series of calamitously poor operational decisions. The resulting chaos was a public relations disaster. "What a way to run an airline!" screamed one tabloid newspaper headline. BA looked to some more like a ramshackle, low-cost operation flying by the seat of its pants than the self-styled "world's favourite airline" with a proud record of reliability. The City is worried. The question analysts and investors are asking is whether Eddington's restructuring over the past three years has gone too far and whether BA's strategy is broken or merely dented. The scale of the disruption at Heathrow dismayed analysts. The fact that the absence of just 20 terminal staff could cause such a crisis has shocked both customers and investors, informs Telegraph. According to Reuters, the chief executive of British Airways, Rod Eddington, says he will carry out an investigation into the staff shortages that caused flight cancellations this week. "After this weekend I will review what happened. It will be a very thorough investigation and the action appropriate. I will take tough decisions if necessary but I'm not flying into decisions," Eddington said in a statement on Saturday. Europe's second-largest airline cancelled three more flights from Heathrow Airport on Saturday but said its overall operations were running smoothly. There were severe disruptions earlier in the week, caused by the cancellation of about 40 return flights on Monday and Tuesday. Reports in several weekend newspapers said Eddington's investigation could lead to senior directors being fired, including Mike Street, BA's director of customer service and operations. BA declined to comment further until the inquiry is complete. Separately, BA said it was giving a free pair of tickets to each of its ground staff as compensation for stress and extra work caused by the disruption. The head of British Airways and top managers helped with passenger check-in Saturday as the airline sought recover from a week of chaos that stranded thousands of passengers. BA Chief Executive Rod Eddington and other senior executives joined staff on the terminal floors at London's main airport to help during the holiday weekend, normally one of the busiest travel periods of the year. Some 300 extra staff from other departments of the airline were to help out during the weekend. The airline, plagued by staff shortages and technical hitches all week, said six flights - to Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Phoenix, Ariz. - were canceled Saturday. The airline had scrapped more than 100 flights to and from Heathrow Airport before Saturday. BA Commercial Director Martin George, one of the senior managers helping out on Saturday, said service was returning to normal, publishes Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
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