[Review] British Airways Executive Chairman: Keeping on Course - Running a Global Airline

Published on 2015-07-15

On 24 June, the Chamber hosted Keith Williams, Executive Chairman of British Airways, for a breakfast event where he briefed members on the challenges of running one of the largest international airlines in the 21st century.

BAOn Wednesday the 24th of June, the British Chamber Shanghai hosted Keith Williams, Executive Chairman of British Airways, for a breakfast event where he briefed members on the challenges of running one of the largest international airlines in the 21st century – contending with global economic downturns, volatile oil prices and the ever present threat of terrorism.  

Having joined the company in 1998, Keith has witnessed many changes during his 15 years there. The events of 9/11, which transformed the world and in particular the airline industry, saw the demand for transatlantic flights disappear overnight.

Then, serving as the airline’s chief financial officer from 2006-11, Keith is credited with steering BA through the worst recession in its history, masterminding a solution to the company’s long-standing pension’s deficit.

Although the airline industry is immensely competitive and somewhat unpredictable, the future looks bright for British Airways as they continue to invest and upgrade their technology.

That does not mean that the job is necessarily getting any easier however, and Keith took the British Chamber members through a typical working day to illustrate the considerations for someone at the helm of the UK’s largest airline.

Visas
A particularly hot topic for China and the growing Asian market. Time is spent lobbying the Government in the UK to encourage more favorable visa policies for visitors.

Safety
The number one concern for British Airways. Regular dialogues with intelligence agencies, police, government departments and aviation authorities to ensure the safety of customers and staff.

Financial
With such a large proportion of the airline industry’s costs being dependent on the price of crude oil, fluctuations can be sudden and significant which requires constant monitoring and management.

Competition
Competition within the industry is increasingly fierce but, rather than complaining about it, competition is something to be embraced as ultimately it will always benefit customers.

Environment
British Airways is working hard to reduce its impact on the environment and invests in a number of initiatives to reduce climate change. New technological developments produce ever more efficient aircraft, reducing noise and carbon emissions, and BA is looking at new technologies to develop low-carbon fuel.

People
The cornerstone of any company. A considerable amount of money needs to be invested to not only ensure their staff are trained to the highest standards but also so that employees feel good about their company which is then portrayed to customers.

In conclusion, BA survived through some testing times and it appears they have the correct structures and attitudes in place which should see them continue to thrive in the increasingly interconnected world.