BA’s image recovers from threat of strike action

Stephan Shakespeare
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JOHN Lewis yesterday announced strong Christmas sales – and certainly from the BrandIndex satisfaction scores, it seems that Waitrose customers were satisfied with their Christmas shopping. Graph One shows the scores of six leading supermarkets for the month of December.

British Airways, meanwhile, had a disastrous December on the PR front. Strikes threatened the Christmas and New Year holidays of thousands of travellers, and a war of attrition between BA management and members of the Unite transport workers’ union was conducted in full view of the public eye. After failed negotiations, on 17 December British Airways won a high court injunction which blocked the 12-day strike.

The strike threat did great immediate damage to the BA brand, but the speed of the recovery is also pretty striking. Just as we saw on every previous occasion, for example after the debacle surrounding the opening of Heathrow’s Terminal 5, BA’s brand recovered virtually as soon as the problems had been solved.

BA’s overall BrandIndex score (calculated over seven measures of brand performance) had sunk to a dismal minus four points on 21 December, but had rebounded to plus eight by the start of 2010, and looks set to rise further still.

We have shown British Airways’ scores for the month of December against three rivals in the airline market for comparison Virgin Atlantic, Easyjet, and Ryanair.

Why are the public so willing to forgive British Airways? It seems that – to borrow investor parlance – BA’s brand fundamentals are sound. British Airways still maintains a reputation for value and service, which has so far proved resilient to the short-term negative publicity concerns which have dominated the news agenda.

Stephan Shakespeare is co-founder and chief innovation officer of YouGov.