BBC Two’s “A Very British Airline” Episodes

If you love shows about airline operations, there’s an awesome show in the UK right now entitled “A Very British Airline.” It revolves around British Airways, and is actually much more insightful than I was expecting.

You’d think that if British Airways gave BBC “behind the scenes” access that they’d have them only show the good things, but it actually doesn’t necessarily cast BA in a great light.

Here’s a 30 second trailer about the TV show:

The issue is that while the show is available on BBC’s website, you have to be in the UK in order to watch it. However, it appears as if the first two episodes have been loaded onto YouTube, so you can now watch them online.

Here’s the description of episode one:

British Airways is one of the UK’s most visible brands, selling Britishness as a mark of quality. But in the last decade, the business has faced financial crisis and today, more people fly Easyjet than BA. As the airline reaches a turning point, the BBC’s cameras have been allowed unique access to its inner world, from top level decisions to the daily challenges of a global operation.

This episode explores how the airline tries to persuade people to spend more to fly, revealing the world found behind the ‘millionaire’s door’ at Heathrow Terminal 5, a lounge, restaurant, spa and champagne bar reserved for those select few who are happy to part with small fortunes to fly in the airline’s First Class.

Also this episode, a look at how the airline is playing catch-up with some of its rivals as it brings its first A380, the world’s biggest passenger plane, into service. Plus, the programme follows 18 anxious new recruits on their journey to become cabin crew with British Airways. With exacting standards of dress, behaviour and knowledge, not all of them will make it through the 6-week training course, designed to uncover who is – and who is not – BA.

And here’s the description of episode two:

For 50 years London to New York has been the most glamorous and profitable route in BA’s long-haul network. This was the route made famous by Concorde, and even today BA’s JFK terminal caters for more of the rich and famous than anywhere else.

This looks at the heart of BA’s New York operations to discover what it takes to keep the 28 flights a day running smoothly on this all important route, even as the worst winter on record causes cancellations and delays.

At the other extreme, BA is opening a new route to the Chinese city of Chengdu. China is a key new market, but BA is well behind its rivals and having to learn fast how to cope with the unique challenges of operating in mainland China.

Back at Heathrow, the cabin crew trainees reach the moment of truth. Will they all make it through the course or will some of them learn the hard way that they aren’t quite what BA considers the right stuff?

My thoughts on “A Very British Airline”

I love this show, and especially enjoyed the second episode. Among other things it covers operations at JFK, and follows around the station manager for a day. That guy is just awesome. It’s also interesting that they apparently call the Concorde Room at London Heathrow “millionaire’s door.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at the lady looking for scratches on their newly delivered A380s. I think it’s time she check out the rest of their fleet, especially the planes with old first class, which are more or less falling apart.

If you’ve seen one of the first two episodes, what do you think of the show?

(Tip of the hat to Chris)

Filed Under: British Airways, Videos
  1. I like how the BA manager at Chengdu admitted that the lounge’s food offerings needed improvement.

  2. Agreed. Not quite as rosy as ‘A Week In The Life Of American Airlines’ on CNBC.

    Enjoyed the shows.

  3. YOu can always use the Chrome add-in “Hola Better Internet” to access BBC iPlayer from anywhere

  4. I’m going to have serious withdrawal symptoms when this series ends. Give me this every day over the Kardashians.

  5. I’m hoping in the next episode we get a behind the scenes look at BA’s social media team – learning how they manage to keep readers up to date with the current weather at LHR while at the same time ignoring customers’ requests for assistance. #multitasking #socialmediasnapshots

  6. Both episodes are availability on YouTube. I watched the first one and was impressed with the high standards in training cabin crew.

  7. I laughed at the seat inspection too; the screen at my Club a World seat on a 747 had to be forced open with a fork the last time I flew.

  8. I must say I quite enjoyed it too, although we’re very much in the minority compared to the reviews on Flyertalk! The cabin crew training was a bit OTT on the ‘premium language’ guff but the irrops handling and station manager stuff was pretty interesting.

  9. “revealing the world found behind the ā€˜millionaireā€™s doorā€™ at Heathrow Terminal 5, a lounge, restaurant, spa and champagne bar reserved for those select few who are happy to part with small fortunes to fly in the airlineā€™s First Class.”

    Well, they have to make it sound titillating, sexy, and exclusive, right? “The select few”? There are dozens to trip reports out there showing tons of people in that lounge. I mean, Lucky alone has parted with 2 or 3 small fortunes to get into that lounge šŸ˜‰

  10. I realize there are many horror stories of poor food, service and hard product on BA (esp in F) and that it’s fashionable to bash BA. I may be in the minority but I’ve had three TA trips in BA F in the last four months and I was pleasantly surprised by how good the food was, comfortable hard product and great personalized service. Again, maybe a small n size, but credit where credit is due.

    Of course, they do not measure up to CX F or SQ Suites, which I have also been on in the last year – but for me, the gap was not as big as I had imagined it would be. Maybe the strict training I saw in Episode 1 is paying off?

  11. I was a passenger on the inaugural BA A380 LHR-LAX Sept 24th 2013. After watching both Episodes 1 & 2 I would not fly with BA again. Yes presentation of appearance and time keeping are important – I did not like the egos involved. These two one-hour programmes have not shown BA in good light at all

  12. Has anyone noticed how big of an ass the BA manager in Chengdu is in the second episode? Evidently, the Essex educated man would rather work in HongKong. The JFK manager seems much more professional and is able to communicate his expectations with local crews. Since BA is trying to penetrate the China market, I would think they want someone nice and approachable to manage their new destination on the ground…

  13. Mark both episodes as favorites — will be interesting to see how a UK documentary differs from typical US quasi-promotional stuff.

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