tue 16/10/2018

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)

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