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Crisis Management – Lessons learned from British Airways

The meltdown suffered by the British Airways computer system over the weekend is a textbook example of crisis management, and the lack of it.

I am sure you’re already aware, but BA was plunged into turmoil after a worldwide IT failure sparked huge disruption to flights from Heathrow and Gatwick, wreaking havoc for thousands of passengers.

According to British Airways CEO, Alex Cruz, the root cause of the crisis was "a power supply issue" and that the airline has "no evidence of any cyber attack". Following the disruption, their CEO made the decision to cancel flights on safety grounds when a number of elements of the business continuity process failed.

From the outside it looks as though BA had a crisis plan in place but didn’t have an established / sophisticated crisis management capacity to move the organisation quickly and effectively from normal state to crisis mode. This capacity only comes through training, practice and rehearsal.

Following on from the weekend’s events, we thought we would share some of the important lessons that can be learned from BA crisis:

• When planning a crisis management plan, it is vital to lay out the strategic priorities and stick to them. For BA, passenger safety was clearly the number 1 priority.

• A tried and tested crisis management framework is vital for organisations like BA. The shock of a crisis can shake every part of an organisation, so it’s vital a strategy is in place in order to block this from all angles.

• Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! Crisis management drills will highlight failures with the business continuity plan, avoiding havoc during the time of a crisis.

• Communication is vital. It’s important to communicate with every member of the team to share what you’re actually doing about the crisis. Every team member should have a role to play.

For large organisations, “the midst of a crisis” is not the best time to discover gaps in the crisis management capability, as BA clearly demonstrated.

In preparation for a crisis, it’s vital that you, as an organisation, start testing and rehearsing today. To arrange your free consultation with one of our specialists, contact us on 01983 564917 or email


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