BBC Two’s “A Very British Airline:” Episode 3

Last week I posted about BBC Two’s “A Very British Airline,” which fairly objectively (or at least both favorably and unfavorably) follows around various aspects of British Airways’ operations.

Episode three aired on Monday, and has been posted on YouTube, for anyone interested in watching it:

I found this one to be especially interesting, as it provides an inside look into British Airways’ pilot training. In this case it’s of the first pilots they’ve hired in over a decade. It also follows around a few aspects of airport operations, which is interesting.

You’ve gotta love David, the friendly guy who loves nothing more than a “Golden Ticket” (which British Airways Gold Card Holders can give out to staff that go above and beyond). And I love his story of how he got a “Golden Ticket,” by sitting with a customer in a lounge for an hour sipping tea — I’d love to see that happening in the US!

That’s one proud bloke — why do I never run into people like him at Heathrow?

Here’s the official description for this episode:

In this final episode we’re in the company’s main control room with operations manager, and rugby enthusiast, Kevin McKenzie.

He reveals how the airline manages the challenges of operating out of the world’s most congested airport, and deals with the knock-on effects of some passengers actions – from panic attacks before take-off to suspicious items discovered in luggage.

We follow the training of the airline’s first intake of cadet pilots since the downturn in air travel after 9/11- each cadet has to pay £84,000 for the 18 month course, so failure would be expensive.

And through some of the company’s 40,000 staff, including ex-Harrods manager David Page, we explore what makes BA such a Very British Airline.

I’ve really enjoyed this show, and am sad that there aren’t any more episodes. It has definitely been one of the better airline documentaries that we’ve seen in a while.

If you haven’t seen episodes one and two, here they are:

What did you guys think of episode three?

(Tip of the hat to Chris)

Filed Under: British Airways, Videos
  1. It’s a great series.

    It was actually the first batch of newbie pilots BA has TRAINED in 10 years. It sounded like the newbies had some experience, probably light aircraft. Pretty cool for them … although they had to pay 84K for the training and then get paid a pittance when they start flying for the airline.

  2. Great show and I’m looking forward to watching the third episode. I’m not sure how objective it is though. The documentary series from the 1990’s covered many more subjects and after watching all of it I was left feeling like I’d never want to fly BA again.

  3. I thought this was definitely the best of the three programmes. The baggage supervisor had a very sensible outlook and a view of the ‘wider picture’. The Director of Operations looked like he had a very interesting/stressful job. I’m afraid the Golden Ticket chap just reminded me of a character out of ‘Come Fly With Me’ though – if you haven’t seen it yet, Ben, I’m sure you’d enjoy it! (it’s a few years old now but takes the proverbial out of the usual airline documentaries and is pretty funny)

  4. Hmmm… So people have to pay BA directly for a privilege of being trained? Seems different from the US. Don’t we have special flight schools for core training and then airlines do some additional training once someone is hired?

  5. In the modern era, cadet pilots sponsor their own training taking substantial loans from the banks in a gamble to make it.

    This BA scheme still sees the cadet fund the training, but the loan is secured by BA, and paid back gradually through salary reduction….hence the low starting wage for them.

    The programmes really did not show BA in a good light IMO. They were proudly boasting how much it cost for a premium tickets…. Then spent the whole series showing what poor value for money it is. Not many happy customers.

  6. Enjoyed it very much, as the previous two episodes. I am quite a fan of BBC’s documentaries, but I am not sure if the ‘very British’ side of this airways has been shown in every aspect. Would be excited if they continue Season 2 with more ‘British’ elements. Nice documentaries as always, BBC! Thanks for sharing, Ben!

  7. @ Xulu – thank you for explaining how the training system works. What BA does certainly makes sense… well, depending on just how much they reduce the salary.

  8. You guys need to check out another BBC Documentary series called Airport Live, basically on the functioning of Heathrow. Pretty interesting.

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *