Saturday, November 6, 2010

Winning (Chapter 10) Crisis Management - Willie Walsh, the CEO of British Airways deals with ash cloud

Managers, students and the government members … are facing crisis everyday in their organization. Crisis is part of your life which is inevitable. Quite a lot of people feel panic, nervous and anxious. They will make wrong decision and mistake with this behavior. However, leaders will stand out and trying to fix within their experience. Jack Welch provides the directions for crisis handling are:
1)      Assume the problem is worse than it appears.
2)      Assume there are no secrets in the world and that everyone will eventually find out everything.
3)      Assume you and your organization’s handling of the crisis will be portrayed in the worst possible light.
4)      Assume there will be changes in process and people.
5)      Assume your organization will survive, ultimately stronger for what happened.

During 14-20 April 2010, all the flights in European airport were canceled due to the volcanic ash was spread over the European airspace from Iceland. On 14th April 2010, the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajökull in Iceland's led to a second phase of ash cloud and on 15th April; British Airways has canceled all flights. Other international flights were canceled and airports were closing for safety reasons. Consequently, 6.8 million passengers were affected in this air disruption within 5 days. British Airways was losing up to £200million in this event. BA chief executive Willie Walsh was getting in touch with UK Government. They set up an emergency group to work on this issue. He gathered all BA expertise in risk assessment across a wide range of safety issues to make decisions on the safe operations of flights everyday.

The members were included the pilots, engineers and the senior board of directors in BA. Several assumptions were generated within the survey, reports, weather forecast, satellite photos of the volcano etc. On 17th April, they collected the analysis of the engines on the British Airways Boeing 747 from a test flight. This test fight through the European volcanic cloud has indicated no deterioration in performance.

The CEO of BA Willie Walsh leaded all the technical, pilots to analysis the flight recorders and proved all the result towards the Transport Secretary Lord Adonis. Willie Walsh was citing the technical analysis to support an argument that the blanket restrictions on European airspace were unncecessary. On the other hand, on 19th April, the Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced to the public that the Royal Navy sent a warship to Spain to pick up the soldiers and the British passengers.

Despite the airport in France was reopened on 20th April and short haul flights were back to limited service in EU airspace. The Transport Secretary Lord Adonis refused to reopen Heathrow airport due to safety reasons. On 20th April at , Willie Walsh leaded 26 long haul flights flied towards the London Heathrow airport against the restriction of the airspace in London. On 21st April morning, London Heathrow airport was reopened and all the flights were rescheduled to clear the long queue of passengers. The UK no-fly zone which was around 100,000 flights cancelled was dramatically lifted on 20th April night after a game of brinkmanship by British Airways CEO Willie Walsh.

Willie Walsh strongly believed that British Airways would survive in this crisis. Facing the problem which was losing money everyday, he decided to take action to gather all the possilbe solutions and the update information. He organized all the expertise in BA, analysised all the flight test and weather forecast, concering the safety conditions. Crisis management involved change in the process. Thus he decided to organised 26 long haul flights back to London Heathrow airport under the restriction of the closure airport and the airspace. In order to handle smoothly in the cirisis management, in depth calculations, evulation, assumption, estimation and strong mind are the very important elements. Since all your employees are looking at you and waiting for your solutions. Plus the government and other senior officers in department or management level will try to ignore you and leave you in an isolated area.

BA boss Willie Walsh on resumption of flights

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