wed 24/07/2024

A Very British Airline, BBC Two | reviews, news & interviews

A Very British Airline, BBC Two

A Very British Airline, BBC Two

One British institution runs ad for another. Where's the emergency exit?

BA: a snapshot

Once upon a time British Airways was our national carrier. It had a theme tune that made you want to go "aah"/croon along/flood your lugholes with liquid strychnine. You knew where you were with BA. Then along came the uppity Euro-oiks from Ryanair and EasyJet, companies that can’t locate a space bar on a keyboard let alone a landing strip anywhere near a city centre, and yet they filched all BA's cattle-class customers.

Meanwhile various nouveau airlines from Asia kreemed off the posherati who turn left on planes. But now the solution to this pincer-movement assault on British Airways' bottom line is here. A massive advertisement, masquerading as a BBC series.

A Very British Airline is a very boring documentary. Consider the facts. Did you, for example, know that BA has 280 planes on 170 routes and 40,000 staff? It makes 45 percent of its dough from the 14 percent who ride premium economy. And other such figures. It's estimated that female cabin service personnel account for 97 percent of duty-free sales in foundation and blusher at Terminal 5. And on the evidence presented here, 100 percent of all male stewards are as camp as a desert nomad’s housing arrangements. 

We met some of the droids who work for BA. “So this is 4K,” said interiors manager Catherine. That’s a seat she’s talking about, not the price of a ticket. The price of 4K at the sharp end of a flight to Los Angeles is closer to 9K. Catherine is charged with buffing BA’s spanking new A380 doubledecker bus with wings (cost per vehicle: £250 mill). Upon this new entry in the fleet, much of the current business plan hangs. Hence all the fascinating fuss over spit and polish and lobster. Shut your eyes and this could have been that oleaginous doc from a year or two back about the all-new leopard-print Savoy.

The other part of the business plan involves firing all the old experienced staff and training up younger cheaper ones (this was the one brief moment the script seemed not to have been swept for IEDs by the airline's PR department). The training required to pour the perfect cup of tea or pull off the ideal Heimlich manoeuvre is exacting. “You’ve done extremely extremely well,” purred staff trainer Si to one quick learner. Double adverbs for good performance. Woe betide the trainees who put on their smoke hood wrong or forget the seat configuration in a long-haul cabin. They don’t get black marks; they get something called a snapshot. Four snapshots and you’re out. “We can’t afford to get another snapshot now,” advised Si in all seriousness after a quaking miscreant had got yet another hair out of place. “Because that would be four snapshots.”

After Twenty Twelve and W1A it is simply impossible to take such observational workplace films at their own estimation. The script, voiced by Stephen Mangan, read like the instructions on the side of a Mogadon bottle. “To start with they’ve opted for the soufflé and the brioche. But will the reheated food deliver?” Other than the CEO, who is Dutch, does anyone honestly give a flying fart?

As for BA cabin service personnel (air hostesses in old money), they're hardly good casting for a docusoap. Scrupulous and unflappable, they have always had a robotic veneer. Jodi, aged 20 (pictured above), has a bit about her, but they’re trying to train the personality out of her. Everyone else could cure jetlag. Extremely extremely.

The script, voiced by Steven Mangan, read like the instructions on the side of a Mogadon bottle


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

Explore topics

Share this article


I am an ex airline employee. I didnt find the programme boring, however I was not impressed by the pettiness of some of the training methods especially the four snapshot system that highlighted an hair out of place could count as one snapshot! You then saw some of the training team who were overweight some with weird hair do;s! I will watch the remainder of the series with interest!

Sorry BBC, this episode was nothing but platitudinous drivel. Contrasts with my last (literally) flight with BA returning to Toulouse from Cape Town First Class at the end of last year. First leg to Heathrow delayed 1 hour by faulty oven. In spite of assurances to the contrary from cabin staff no assistance whatsoever from BA ground staff at Heathrow (quite the contrary in fact – very obstructive) so missed connection to Toulouse. Luggage didn’t make the next flight BA booked me on so had to overnight at Toulouse airport. Having not even received an acknowledgement of my complaint I decided to cancel my Executive Club membership. Three months on I’m still waiting for BA to give effect to my demand. Have got the UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office on the case and my solicitor is preparing a file. If you’re looking for over-made-up hostesses in fear of their next “snapshot” then by all means fly BA. If you really want customer service that works fly anything else. I’ll stick with Emirates. One positive from this episode – I got to see the Mr Van Der Post actually exists. Several letters to him remain without even the courtesy of a response.

More fool you. BA would have delivered your delayed luggage to your hotel or home free of charge. No need to have "spent the night at the airport". I'm sure they are quaking in their boots at the prospect of you cancelling your Blue Card. One less clueless idiot for them to have to deal with.

Don't bother writing to Frank, write directly to Keith Williams the CEO. He Actually looks at his mail, he likes to know where the problems lie... and at this rate, there are many!

Found the cabin crew training side of things very difficult to watch. This verged on bullying. Never mind the snap shots if your face doesn't fit and you don't suck up to the right people you're out! Trainers are arrogant, insincere, and petty. Hardly a good way to instil confidence in youngsters who may one day have to cope in an emergency. God knows what they're like when the cameras aren't on.

CEO is not Dutch but Irish ... Maybe check your facts before running with the article?

The CEO of IAG is Irish, the head of IFCE is Dutch .

The CEO of BA is British..... The head of IAG is Irish and the head of BA customer experience is Dutch.

Head of IFCE is Dutch, CEO is actually Keith Williams and CEO of IAG is Irish.. Willie Walsh.. stand corrected! !

Anonymous your remark about the CEO Being Irish is also wrong he is as far as I am aware English/ British. The CEO of IAG who BRitish Airways are part of is Irish, so maybe check your Facts. But that aside I feel that the PR Dept at BA have realy shot themselves in the foot, the programe is embarrassing.

He's not Irish anymore, he's English! Get YOUR facts right

Nearly as boring as the inept article....cabin service personal? Cabin crew. As for the male being camp a bad thing or just your personal intolerance? Who cares, as long as there competent at the job. journalists....continually in the "must try harder" category. xxxx

Yes, I also wondered what was the relevance of the male crews sexuality to the article.

Brilliant article! And, before someone jumps on my back with regards of facts and all that jazz, I do work for BA so I know well who the CEO is. The main point here being how embarrasing this so-called documentary is!

I am cabin crew for this airline. The programme hasn't been portrayed in its best light. However, being old school, I feel the calibre of some of the new recruits falls short of any kind of standard which should be employed by BA. Leave the trainers alone to do their jobs and know when you step on board one of our planes you have the confidence in the crew to make your flight enjoyable and safe. Maybe the critics should be looking at the people who actually select these candidates. How did they get so far??

Not boring but embarrassing. Surely loyalty and experience cannot be replaced by school kids with over made up faces, chavvy accents and not a clue in the life experience department? Shame on you BA..losing your touch by introducing cheap over experience...fab airline but let's see if quality gives way to saving a £ or two!!

I can't understand how snobby you could be. Judging by an accent! How can you judge a book by it's cover by the accent. I happen to know a brilliant cabin crew employee whom has the london accent whom is brilliant at her job with major experience on here. You are sad..

Utterly embarrassing and portrays BA and it's new recruits in a very poor light. Why not show some of the marvellous experienced crew coaching the new recruits in how to achieve the correct brave position/hair/make up etc. How this ever made it out onto National television is beyond me!

This documentary is horrible! I can believe they are screen it. BA good old days posh and stylish. Now it shows its trashyness! Unbelievable how they portrate the new staff as a Cheap labour, poor Mixfleet! I fly BA a lot and you notice the difference between the crew with the experience and the new crew. The Mixfleet crew needs to live up for it.

‘A very British Airline’, is a sham of a series, you obviously think that international travellers who travel with airlines all over the world, are incredibly stupid. BA is competing on a global platform, and you are being trounced by the competition! British airways used to set the standard now they are way below standard. You used to have a loyal following, not any more. Myself and others have even been the recipient of better service on Easy Jet. I have only flown with two airlines that were worse than BA, the now defunct TWA and Delta airlines, and even Delta have raised their game. Your staff being worried about scratches on the furnishings in first class, is like BA’s Ford Focus competing with the Rolls Royce service that Emirates offer their first class passengers. You are trumpeting the roll out of a 380 airbus, when ten other airlines have had them for years, your celebrating this, only exposes just how behind you are!! The last time I flew with BA I swore never again, what is the point of making sure your staff are well groomed in training, when the minute they hit the skies, all the training goes to pot! In the air, your crew looked dishevelled, harassed, and unkempt, you could clearly see they were unhappy to be there. The service was appalling, my stewardess, kept on leaving things of my tray. I kept on having to call her back, I felt incredibly guilty, because she looked really stressed, and could barely bring herself to apologise. As for those service buttons you are supposed to press, they are a waste of time, your staff just ignored them. It’s the bubbly people orientated staff like the Patrick that you sacked, that keep customers coming back, your snap shot system only goes to display how backward is! As for the quality of the cheese soufflé your first class guests were served, you would do better re-heating a ready meal, from the supermarket, I’m sure it would have looked a lot more appetising. Your service standards are already substandard, so to rectify this you advertise the fact that you are now hiring staff who are earn a lot less, and you actually expect them to work harder. Delta airlines have quietly raised their game and started to exceed their passengers expectations, that is how you keep customers coming back, your genius of a marketing team, have decided on the exact opposite! Now when people fly British Airways expecting you to have improved your service standards they will feel even more let down than ever. Your head is in the clouds literally, if you want to turn your airline around become an undercover boss, and begin to really feel your passengers needs before you lose the few you have left to the competition.

A load of tosh. I treated myself to First Class BA to Toronto and return from Vancouver. Outward was ok but nothing special. Return was a disgrace from start to finish. As a priority one boarder, First Class was then subjected to all economy passengers routing through our cabin, I was bashed by various backpacks whilst trying t9 access the aisle wardrobes. Food choice was not available and service poor throughout. I left plane with food poisoning and couldn't enjoy the Concorde Lounge as a result. BA thinks it's all ok and fobbed me off with 15k Avios. THIS IS NOT THE END OF THIS.

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters