Management and employee relations

  • Paul Blyton
  • Peter Turnbull
Part of the Management, Work and Organisations book series (MWO)


Having ‘flown the flag’ on a British Airways (BA) intercontinental flight, passengers arriving at London Heathrow are canvassed about the service they enjoyed. Did the check-in staff use your name? Did he or she look you in the eye? Did they smile? If yes, did the smile seem genuine or forced (on a scale of one to four)? As Dr Nick Georgiades, a former Director of Human Resources at BA and previously a professor of industrial psychology at the University of London, made quite clear,

We are maintaining a commitment to customer service which transcends merely being nice. It demands more than a plastic smile and ‘have a nice day’…. As well as using their brains, they are going to need to use their hearts and engage in what we call ‘emotional labour’ (quoted in Corke, 1986:114).

In the 1980s BA embarked on a major programme of cultural change in its quest to become ‘The World’s Favourite Airline’, a programme designed to transform the company from being operationally driven to one that was market led (Höpfl et al., 1992:25). In short, the company’s business was redefined from transportation to service. The way to improve service, and thereby custom, revenue and profits, was ‘to treat every single customer as though the entire airline is at his or her service, as indeed it must be…. The simple fact is that what we have to sell is a service to our customer’ (Sir Colin Marshall, now BA chairman, quoted in Corke, 1986:91). As the new logo on the company’s coat of arms boldly proclaimed, ‘We Fly to Serve’.


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Copyright information

© Paul Blyton and Peter Turnbull 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paul Blyton
  • Peter Turnbull

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