Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Heathrow- A Glimmer of Hope for the Managers.

From amidst reports that the Heathrow terminals today again resemble zoos, with more people admittedly getting away but thousands from the cancelled flights still there trying to get last minute seats from people who don't show up or whose connections don't arrive, a glimmer of hope for the beleagered BAA and airline managers,- as distinct from their leaders.

For most of the airport and resident airlines' managers there are two distinct parts of the year. From October to March they are heads down into the planning and budget process for the next summer peak season. The battles flow to and forth as the line people battle for money and resources from their finance departments. The line is trying to maximise performance and customer service, whilst the finance departments are pushing them to minimise costs. The senior managers who present the budgets are repeatedly told to go back and try harder until they finally return with a figure which the finance people reluctantly accept. At this point the airport or airline General Manager responsible is assured of surviving his or her forthcoming annual review and may now get a bonus."Good budget,- well done" is what he or she hopes to hear even though they know respite is only temporary as the whole edifice is built on sand. There is at least temporary remission from being battered to death.
The second part of the year, from April to September takes in the peak operating season for which the planners were trying to get the required resources. After a lull maybe in April and May, the pressure starts to build up, any resource gaps begin to show and sooner or later the daily operation begins to crack. At this point the battering resumes with a new intensity, this time from the CEO and other people who were the original ultimate source of the big "No" to the additional spend. All delayed departures are allocated a code, identified as "late baggage" or similar. In fact the real code should be "CEO" or "Finance Director" or "Head of Service Delivery". Instead it is the unfortunate line General Manager standing next to the (planned)disaster who cops it.

For those about to go into the final rounds of the budget after Christmas,the current disaster is a Godsend. Which Finance Director or CEO or other will dare to kick "Essential additional equipment for snow clearance and emergency customer care" into the "Go back and do it again" long grass.The operators might,just for once, get all they need.

Go for it ladies and gents!

ps While the above deals with the physical resources issue ,it still leaves all levels of management and supervision with the question about the whole service ethos and whether every ounce of effort and energy have been correctly and creatively deployed to deal with the situation prevaling since last Saturday. Why did the Salvation Army, that magnificent last resort of customer service when all else has failed, have to dish out warm drinks? There are plenty available in the terminals. Where were the BAA and airline people? Why weren't they tipped out of their offices and straight onto the front line to do and hand out whatever was necessary?