I would kill to be the CEO of... British Airways

 
Atif Sheikh
U.S. Owners Put City Airport Up For Sale
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On the face of it, those who know me will be thinking this is a weird choice. Why? Because I have a full-blown fear of flying.

But those who share my irrational phobia might understand. When you fear flying – and it is an inevitable part of your business life – you tend to develop a deep fascination for airlines.

Of all the airlines, there is only one I would want to run. The grand dame of flying. A classic. Our national carrier. A symbol of British pride. Or at least it used to be.

Digital disruption has taken off

It is no secret that aviation has long been disrupted.

There have been huge increases in the cost of fuel, a rapid expansion of no frills carriers, and of course digital has had an impact on everything – from pricing to customer experience.

These forces have made it a tough place to be for the once dominant national airline.

The subsequent pressures on cabin crew pay and conditions, the raft of strikes, and the diminishing reputation of British Airways have only made things tougher.

Transporting British values around the world

So why on earth would I want to step into this lion’s den? Because, as a national carrier with the kind of heritage British Airways has, there is a massive opportunity.

And I believe that opportunity is going untapped.

In the age of disruption, British Airways has a uniquely important role to play.

It quite literally transports British values all over the world. Modesty. Pride. Fairness. Ingenuity. Professionalism. At our best, this is still who we are in this country.

And this is what British Airways ought to be at its best. But how clear are the airline’s values?

Having a good altitude

As we exit the European Union, BA’s role takes on an even sharper practical significance. Britain’s businesspeople will need more than ever to strike out globally and serve the world entire.

British Airways could put itself at the heart of that national effort. It could even set that as its mission.

It could perhaps create new services to help those businesspeople thrive and succeed as they go out to trade and grow the British economy. What opportunities could lie in really being a champion of British aspirations?

The competitive cousin

Returning to my fear of flying, there is a final more selfish reason for my desire to supplant Alex Cruz.

At a pure brand level, I have always thought BA should, if anything, relish the difference between itself and Virgin. It can feel a little like BA looks in the mirror and frets and worries that it is indeed Virgin’s frumpier cousin.

It is estimated that over 30 per cent of people have a fear of flying. You know what we, in that 30 per cent really value and are prepared to pay more for? Not sexy uniforms and funny pilots.

No. We want to feel safe. We want British competence and understated warmth. Be that, BA. Be that with pride.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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