Tuesday, 9 April 2013
I joined British Airways when it was a nationalised industry. It wasn't an unpleasant place to work - far from it - but, frankly, it was fairly low energy. I had an interesting job and I enjoyed it, but the overall feeling was of a company that had little unity and more interest in the status quo (down to the separate 'officers' mess' style management canteen) than, for instance, its customers. In the entire time I was working for a nationalized company I only saw a board member once, and that was in the run up to privitization.
Privatization changed everything. There was a dramatic new energy - it really felt like somewhere exciting to be working. More to the point, the majority of people working there went from being enthusiastic about planes or technology to being proud of working for British Airways. There was a dramatic new focus on customer service - suddenly, customers mattered to everyone. I got significantly more exposure to board members, apart from anything because they were spending considerable amounts of time with the staff, rather than squirrelled away in Buckingham Palace Road in London. Without any doubt whatsoever, the airline became a much better place to work, and provided a much better experience to the flying public. I honestly believe that this could never have happened without privatization.
I'm not saying it was perfect, and those who still work for the airline may well say it isn't now what it was back then. But those who look back at a golden age of nationalized companies are living in cloud cuckoo land. Privatization was right for BA - there is no doubt whatsoever in my mind.
If you are a supporter of Mrs Thatcher's work, don't take this as wholehearted praise. There were other things her government did that were disastrously handled or simply misguided. But if you are of the demonizing camp, frankly you do your intelligence a disservice. Everything the Thatcher government did was certainly not bad, as I can testify. Back then, you might well have had reason to see things through rosy tinted spectacles or coloured by the flames of hatred. But now we have the chance to employ 20:20 hindsight and should accept that both bad and good things came out of that period.
Image from Wikipedia