Series going behind the scenes at British Airways. Featuring a look behind the airline's 'millionaire's door' at Heathrow, and the tough training course faced by new recruits.
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British Airways is one of the UK's most visible brands.
It sells Britishness as a mark of quality.
Some passengers are happy to part with small fortunes to
fly in its first class.
A one-way fare is just over 10,000.
But in the last decade the business has faced financial crisis.
Today, more people fly easyJet than BA.
We all fly to the same destinations so what can we do to stand out?
As the airline reaches a turning point,
our cameras have been allowed unique access to its inner world.
From the top level decisions...
We're not as big in China as we should be,
so getting this right is very important.
..to the daily challenges of its global operation.
The 552 rows back on stand to off-load a passenger having
a panic attack.
We've been following some of the airline's 40,000 staff...
Do you know what the pressure is on?
..as they work to meeting exacting standards.
In this episode, we'll reveal how they train their newest recruits.
It is almost like being in the military.
If you receive four snapshots, your contract may be terminated.
Keep their 280 aircraft in the air.
At this moment in time it's broken.
And bring the world's biggest passenger plane into service.
It's sort of making history for us, isn't it?
And I never do anything like that.
The airline's headquarters are at Waterside, just outside Heathrow.
I am starting my initial training course today.
Just to remind you, then, to wear your pass at all times whilst
you're in the building.
18 anxious new recruits are about to start their first day
of cabin crew training.
OK, well, firstly, welcome to the mixed fleet operation within British Airways
I know thousands and thousands of people applied this year to
join us and we selected approximately 800 people to be
sat where you're sat now, so you've done extremely, extremely well.
Cabin crew are the face of the company
and are expected to look immaculate.
The skirt has to be on the knee, so that's absolutely fine.
Any drinks or snacks?
For many of the recruits,
the uniform is part of the job's attraction.
Are you excited?
Very excited, yeah, especially now I've got this.
From the very beginning, being an air stewardess was
sold as a glamorous job.
A sort of finishing school in the sky.
Ladies and gentlemen, you may now unfasten your seat belts
and smoke if you wish.
I think it was every bit as glamorous as I thought it was going
to be. In fact, it was so glamorous that I used to just walk around
London in my uniform cos I just used to think that it was just so cool.
Ros Hanby was the face of the airline in the 1970s.
It was definitely important to look good.
You were the in-flight entertainment.
You weren't allowed to get married. There was
an airline called Pan American when I was flying and they used to
weigh their stewardesses before going on each flight.
I don't think the words sexual harassment existed in those days,
but, you know, we were, we all helped each other,
I mean, I'd say, "Look up for 19B, he's looking a bit tricky."
Ta-da. Nearly a life size Ros.
When the photography took place, they were very embarrassed about
telling me, well, actually we're, we're not going to use your body,
and they told me it was cos I was not tall enough,
but as you can see...
Have you decided how you're going to wear your hair?
Erm, in a bun.
20-year-old Jodie Paris is one of the youngest recruits.
For her, joining the airline is a chance for adventure.
I've been working two jobs for God knows how long now,
in this tiny little town and there's just such a massive world out
there that I haven't seen yet.
The hat is to be worn over the right eye.
Perfect, thank you.
-You're ready now, aren't you?
-I love it.
I'm really proud of myself and I just can't wait to...
can't wait to start and deliver a world-class service.
But not everyone who makes it on to the course will get to the end.
Some sessions are going to be very light-hearted,
this one's a little bit heavier.
The next six weeks are designed to uncover who is and who is not BA.
It's an 80% pass mark. That's not hard to achieve.
It's front-line cabin crew Si Jones and Nadine Felan's job
to make sure the recruits have got what it takes.
Time, thank you.
If you're a little bit late for your flight do you think you can
stick your thumbs out on the runway and get a 747 to pull over
and pick you up?
Not going to happen, guys, is it, so punctuality is definitely one
we're going to be putting onto our course contracts.
British Airways has always been renowned for its cabin crew
and certainly to get a job at British Airways is very hard,
but I think it's because we don't want to dilute what we have.
We don't want anybody to fail.
Do you think, then, if you're not doing it quite right we're
-going to tell you?
Would you want to know if you're not getting it quite right?
We can do this either verbally or we can do it by what's called
a training snapshot.
In this case, points doesn't make prizes, we're not Bruce Forsyth.
We don't want you to accrue snapshots, these
snapshots are recorded, documented, you do not have the right to appeal,
OK, and you're going to carry that with you for the rest of the course.
If you receive four snapshots, your contract may be terminated.
OK, because you're not demonstrating to us
what we expect from British Airways cabin crew.
All right, are you all happy?
OK, well, happy is the wrong word!
Do you all understand?
Si's snapshot warning has its desired effect.
The snapshots and the points, slightly terrifying?
Yeah, I think it's slightly nerve-racking, to be honest.
29-year-old recruit Alice Kennedy is plane mad,
and likes nothing more than spotting them in her spare time.
I probably sound a bit of a plane geek, I just, I love plane spotting.
I was on the M25 in the summer and ashamedly so actually, erm,
went into the back of a car because I was plane spotting.
For Alice, when it comes to planes, size definitely does matter.
That's an A340.
I like the A340, it's really good,
and it's nice it's got the four engines as well, you know,
they're a bit more interesting, there's a bit more to look at.
I definitely prefer to watch the bigger planes coming over.
There's a 747 there, taking off, which is brilliant,
it's my favourite plane.
The noise and just the sheer size of the plane is just,
it's just fascinating, I love it.
The company has the largest fleet of 747s in the world.
The trouble is it's also one of the oldest,
and they're heading for retirement.
OK, I just had a message from Mr Walsh, he's going
to be here in 15 minutes.
Airline boss Willy Walsh is planning to modernise the fleet.
With funding from banks around the world,
replacements are on their way.
'If you look at the aircraft that we have on order,
'that we've committed to,'
the list price of all those aircraft is about
27, 28 billion US dollars.
'Now, on any scale, this is a very big capital expenditure,'
you know, very significant investment.
One of the key new planes in the company's spending spree is
Built across mainland Europe and the UK
before being assembled in France, it's the biggest
passenger jet in the world, and has a list price of £250 million.
When these different sections are assembled,
the wingspan will be the length of eight double decker buses.
The airline industry is very competitive,
the A380 is designed to make us more efficient,
reduce our fuel bill, improve our environmental performance
and give us the opportunity to expand our network as well.
Six years in the planning, the company needs to make
the most of the A380's arrival.
And it's wrapped this press event
in the Union Jack to give the air of a national celebration.
The brand is masterminded by a Dutchman, Frank van der Post.
The Brits are, I think, too reserved to talk about their own strengths
and when I came in I said, "Guys, you know, you don't understand
"what it means to be British and you should be proud of that."
And everyone kind of looks at you
and what's this mad Dutchman all about, but, you know,
there's something to celebrate and these aircraft are quite expensive,
and I think there's expectations of, of customers, high expectations, and
it's up to us to make sure that we deliver to those expectations.
For all the fanfare,
many customers have already experienced the A380 at Heathrow.
Emirates has a fleet of 39 and has been flying them since 2008.
Outstripping its British rival in passenger numbers
and encroaching on its luxury territory.
Everything you see out the window is British,
the wings are British, they're made in north Wales.
The engines are British, Rolls-Royce, built in Derbyshire, but more
importantly for our passengers, it's a beautiful aeroplane to travel in.
Persuading people to spend more to fly has always been
critical to the business' profits.
So this is, I think, the killer cabin,
this is the one that is going to make BA lots of money.
This is traveller plus,
got a slightly larger HD screen than we have in the economy cabins.
The innovators of premium economy, their business
and first class tickets account for only 14% of passengers,
but can bring in as much as 45% of revenue.
This is known as Millionaire's Door at Terminal 5,
for those select few who fly first class.
They have access to their own lounge, restaurant,
spa and champagne bar.
Competition in the luxury market is intense.
Emirates A380s offer suites and on-board showers.
For interiors manager Catherine Doyle it's
all about the airline's invention, the flatbed chair.
So this is first class,
this is a variant of the seat which you'll see in our 777s and
our 747 fleet, so lovingly known as prime seat, and this is called
prime plus, literally because it's the same seats -
our customers will recognise this,
but then, because of the space, we've been able to really grow it out so
when a bed goes to flat, we have far more bed space.
And this is the other big item here,
so this is our suitor. So you've got a lovely big gap
under here which actually is capable of taking an IATA-size wheelie bag.
So, no more of, oh, gosh, I've forgotten something,
rummage around in a bin,
you have to just lean out of your seat and help yourself.
So this is bespoke, and we painstakingly inspect every single item.
Back in March, when we did our final inspection on this aircraft,
I actually spent two days literally on my hands
and knees inspecting every inch of this cabin.
Everything has to be perfect.
A first class ticket will cost around ten times
the price of an economy one.
So this is 4K, at the rear of the cabin,
when we first inspected it there was a tiny, tiny scratch just
here on the corner, there.
It's not even a scratch because you can't even feel it, to be honest, it's probably just an imperfection
in the dip of the anodise.
The feedback we get from our customers, especially in
a premium cabin, does go to that level of detail,
so they'll tell me that
there was a scratch here or, erm, you know, a ding there
and they spotted it,
and that shows you what level of detail they live their lives by and
therefore we have to replicate that experience with the first brands.
The airline's training base is at Cranebank,
a few miles from Heathrow.
Here generations of cabin crew have earned the right to represent
And two at the front of the cabin.
This latest recruitment drive comes in the wake of bitter
After a period of unrest and strikes by cabin crew in 2010,
BA decided that future recruits would be employed under new terms
and conditions as part of what the airline called their mixed fleet.
Unfasten your seat belts! Come this way!
Today's intake follows the same training as their predecessors,
but are paid less, in line with their budget airline counterparts.
Jodie, we're going to start with your brace position,
so when you're ready please adopt the crew brace position.
The first two weeks of training are about safety.
Thank you, Jodie.
Going to move on to look at the smoke hood now, show me
how you'd get that smoke hood ready for use
and if you'd like to correctly fit the smoke hood, please.
The airline has not had a fatal accident in 29 years.
Just turn around for me.
It examines its recruits on every emergency procedure.
OK, Jodie, if you'd like to take that off now, please.
Jodie, I'm sorry to say that you haven't met
the standard for this assessment.
In crew brace position your head wasn't back.
For the smoke hood, the bottom half of your bun was sticking out,
so that can allow smoky air to get in, OK?
Jodie's failure means she'll receive a written warning.
Jodie, if you want to just go and take a seat down there for me.
Right, what just happened is the SEP equipment practical assessment,
and you failed it. So that means now that
I need to give you a formal letter, which I'm going to give you
a copy of to read. If you don't reach the required
standard, your contract could be terminated with British Airways.
Do you understand that?
Yes. Thank you.
So what we do now is we'll take you back downstairs.
I've worked so hard, it'd be such a shame to, you know, have it all
thrown, all thrown away for a couple of, you know, silly mistakes.
It doesn't seem like I've worked hard
because obviously I have failed a couple of things, but I am
working so hard, you know. There's been a few nights where I haven't
slept because I've been revising and stuff and going over my drills.
-It's not the easiest thing in the world.
-But it is...
Many of the trainees are joining from other airlines
and have been through the process before.
Don't worry, you've just shown me...
But I can't be kicked off the course.
You're not going to get chucked off the course.
You've just failed one exam and it's not the end of the world and you're going to go back in,
you've just shown them the correct position so you do know it.
Take this off when you go in, because you can't brace with that jacket on.
When I was at Virgin, I failed about six times, loads!
At Terminal 5 Heathrow, it's the first big outing
for the company's new plane.
With ten rival airlines already flying the A380, for staff like
Turnaround Manager Lisa Horegan, it's a relief to be catching up.
I'm glad that we're finally keeping up with the new technology and
new aircraft types.
It's like I'm making history for us, really, isn't it?
And I never do anything like that.
The airline's first fully trained A380 pilot is Captain James Basnett.
Before every flight we have a good look round the aeroplane to make sure
the hatches are closed, make sure the engines are in good condition,
everything that is really sort of a, a normal pilot would do on however
big a plane, whether it's a tiny Cessna or an aircraft this size.
It takes 22 cabin crew to run a plane this big.
OK, down with the preboards, please.
Straight across, and turn right.
'Please ensure that all electronic devices, including mobile phones, are switched off.'
-Shall I take you up to the front door?
-Show me the way.
-Sarah, would you mind just watching that door while it's open?
Thank you very much.
Last person on board is Frank, here to launch proceedings.
Hi, there, how are you?
So, are we good to go with the PA or shall I do it for you?
The phone, can you remember?
OK. There we go, push to talk, and off you go,
you have to talk quite closely, so...
Good afternoon, everybody, this is Frank van der Post.
I hope you're settled in well and comfortable.
It is great to have you on our flight to nowhere.
We encourage you to kick back and relax, we do serve you a glass
of wine, but I ask you one thing, please, don't scratch anything.
With a cruising altitude of zero feet,
this plane isn't going anywhere.
The passengers are all staff who volunteered to come in
on their day off to sit on the tarmac.
It's a pretend flight to Hong Kong, to see what works and what doesn't.
The drinks were coming from the World Traveller galley,
which meant crew had to walk through the World Traveller cabin
into World Traveller class,
and when you've got a heavy flow of customer traffic,
that can be quite challenging.
I think it's a nice customer enhancement
but we just need to try and make it work.
A couple of miles away on a mock-up plane in Cranebank,
trainee cabin crew Patrick Flynn
and Alice are investigating a possible fire in the toilets.
..push the door very slightly.
I don't need that now, there's no smoke,
I mean, there's no fire, sorry, no flames.
Have you checked in the bin?
OK, so there are still flames. You want to use the BCF. Excellent.
What have you found, Patrick?
OK, so you've found matches.
OK, I'll go and report back to the captain, just bear with me.
The trainers think that they've found a new star.
-You all right?
-Yeah, that was just so long in that hood.
-Alice helped him through that.
-Alice was fantastic.
She really did, he wouldn't have... She prompted him all along.
You was really good, you was helping me.
Alice? Congratulations, you've passed.
-Oh, my God, amazing.
Your role as a coordinator just then is one of the best exercises
I've seen recently, if not ever.
Thank you so much, that's lovely.
Former call centre worker Patrick is equally determined to excel.
Right, Patrick, well done, you have passed
but you pick up one point.
-That's an actual point not a mark.
-That is one point.
'My friends think I've come to BA to serve coffee and to serve tea,'
the stereotypical trolley dolly, all smiley faces.
'This is the captain, this is an emergency, brace, brace.'
'But I think the BA cabin crew are the best crew in the world, it's the
'service that they give and it's the way that they deliver the service.'
Patrick leaving from door two right!
Jodie leaving door two left.
'And I think because of that I'm feeling more apprehensive.
'But I've just got to try and not let it get to me.'
'I know I can do this job, and I know I can pass this course.'
Is that everything?
-That's lovely, good luck.
At Terminal 5, the flight to nowhere is in its fourth hour.
No, it's not landed yet, so we're just waiting for it to come
on stand or land and then come on stand.
To pretend an aircraft's not there
when it is, then, yeah, it's a little bit weird.
In economy, they've finished eating and are watching movies.
In business and first class, the fine wine
and dining takes a little longer.
We have a Chablis which is a Chardonnay, which is
perfect for the sea bass today, and we also have
a Pinot Gris, which is Australian, and it's best with spicy foods.
In charge of delivering a gourmet tasting menu
for the A380's elite customer is chef Mark Tassioli.
It's a difficult task when the food has to be ready-made
and reheated at 30,000 feet.
It won't take them long to eat the soup.
Right, and you want it to be fresh.
Add a little bit of, er, time between the course.
I have a much better understanding
around the way these ovens work now, much better
understanding around how it's affecting the people out there, so,
by the time this goes live, they'll have the instructions, like when
you do this dish, when they clear that, put that one in the oven.
This is your captain, we are making good progress to Hong Kong, very
shortly we're going to be commencing our descent and disappointingly
the weather there is very similar to how we left it in London. The cabin crew are just going to start
getting everything back into the galleys.
The trial is at an end. With seven weeks before the big flight to LA,
the plane will be flying short haul routes to iron out any problems.
Hi, Lisa. How are you?
Good. How was your trip?
Yeah, it was good.
BA runs the biggest aircraft maintenance operation in the country
with 5,500 engineers servicing its fleet.
Last year, a technical fault resulted in an engine fire
on a BA A320 flying to Oslo.
In the emergency landing that followed no-one was hurt
but it shows there is no margin for error.
Every night, every plane is checked and, if it needs special
attention, it's brought to the Fleet Support Unit in this hangar.
Veteran engineer John Beattie has been working nights for 26 years.
We have a look around the aircraft for any damage that may occur
when it's on flight, like lightning strikes, bird strikes.
Unfortunately, birds decide they like to hit the aircraft and if
they hit the engine they could go down the engine.
We then do a boroscope,
look inside to find out whether there's any more damage in there.
You normally know cos it smells awful.
An ultrasound is used to look for hairline cracks in the fan blades.
We're just putting a bit of jelly onto each blade to just aid
the sound, so here we have the decibel reader
and you see there we've got 300 decibels. If it was above 700
that might well mean we might have to change that particular blade.
The airline has 280 planes being used across 170 routes.
Keeping them flying is a big task.
On a busy night, the casualty hangar may need to get up to ten of them
fixed and back into service,
all with different problems to be solved.
We're changing the fuel control unit, or the FNU.
That's the one that's going to go on, this is like a big carburettor.
Grounded planes are an airline's nightmare.
If the planes aren't flying they're losing money.
Passengers aren't moving and people are missing connections.
The system can quickly break down.
So, in the operation centre at Waterside,
it's a constant juggle to keep the schedule working.
The team here are responsible for the entire network, moving about
110,000 people a day on 800 flights, many of them on the Airbus fleet.
We've got over 111 aircraft in our Airbus fleet,
there are 58 of them here and there are 53 of them overseas.
Most aircraft will do four to five flights a day.
We couldn't actually park
them all on the ground at Heathrow at one time anyway because there
isn't enough room,
so it's a constant movement of aircraft in and out.
Steve Duffy is lead engineer in operations, it's his job to
track which of the sick planes might not be able to fly on schedule.
OK, then, well, we'll start off with Ian in the FSU then...
He's on the nightly 3am call to get a status update.
OK, Uniform Uniform Tango's windscreen change,
they're only just starting to refit it within the last hour.
That's on an 06, but there's no way it's going to make 06.
'No way that's going to happen.'
Well, I'll start looking at 12 o'clock, have a chat with ops, and see what we can do about it.
Echo Delta November, the FMU is fitted.
They're aiming to push that out for four o'clock
and get some runs out of it.
'Hopefully that will make its 06 ETS.'
We'll keep a listening watch for that, we'll talk to you later, thank you.
-Hello, Chippy, how are you?
-Yeah, not bad, what's going on?
-Windscreen change, having a bit of trouble with the sealant,
initial provisional estimate they're giving me is 12 o'clock.
-Erm, I reckon it might go back a bit past that.
So if I roll the programme up to...
well, to its last departure as such.
-Happy with that?
Yeah, that'll be a good start.
Hello there, morning, we have got a couple of changes.
Erm, they want to change Uniform Uniform Tango.
The windscreen isn't going to be coming up in time.
You've got Uniform Hotel and you have Yankee Lima. OK.
Back in engineering, Uniform Uniform Tango is supposed to be
flying to Aberdeen with a new windscreen at 08.40.
But time is of secondary importance to safety.
The windscreen has been fitted but they had a problem, the gaps round
the outside of the windscreen were not quite right, so that's just gone
backwards probably half an hour. It's not an easy job. Because
of the pressure of the aircraft and the pressurisation there is actually
a lot of force on that windscreen and if it's not in the right
place and if that screen fails, the consequences are catastrophic.
They had a windscreen years ago that was fitted with incorrect screws
and the windscreen exited the aircraft
and the pilot was hanging out and his head
and his arms were flailing down the fuselage at how many thousand feet.
The other pilot flying the aircraft had to deal with holding his
colleague in place and flying and landing the aircraft and that was
a very, very stressful and dangerous situation for the flight crew.
So, just the usual, look down for me.
For new recruit Jodie nightly maintenance has a different meaning.
Cabin crew are required to look immaculate at all times.
So, when do you get your uniform?
I'm getting it tomorrow and I had my uniform fitting like, I think
about a month ago.
-We've got to have...
Have you got to buy the shoes or do they?
Yeah, we've got to buy them, we've got to have like loafer shoes
for the service and then actual heels like walking to and from work.
How do they expect you to be presented?
They like you to, I think
they like you to wear quite a bit of make-up, like it says
the minimum make-up that you should be wearing is lipstick and blusher.
So what motivated you into - look down - taking a job with BA?
I was on the beach in Ibiza and I was sunbathing with my friends
and this bottle was at my feet and I picked it up to put it in the bin,
and I've noticed that there was a message inside the bottle.
So I opened it, and I'd seen like this essay, like pages and pages of
writing, I was like, "Oh, my God, what is this?"
And then I started reading it
when I got back to the hotel, and it was from this guy and he was
just explaining about all these different countries that he'd been
to and why he'd been to them and all this crazy stuff that had happened.
Look down, is that true?
I've got the, I've got the letter at home.
-Yeah. He didn't leave any like contact details or anything.
Look at me.
With exams every day the recruits also have to study every night.
For Alice, it's been more than she expected.
It is quite all-encompassing, I think, I actually had
a dream about a plane crash the other night, which was awful.
I think there are a lot of misconceptions out there
about being cabin crew. I knew it was going to be hard
and I've always been fully aware of what they've done but there are
so many other areas that I haven't realised that we would do and it has
been hard because there's just so much to remember. So I think in that
sense it's been, it has been harder than I thought it was going to be.
Because Heathrow is in such a densely populated area,
noise pollution is always an issue.
The last scheduled flights land before midnight.
But the fleet support unit still need to do an engine test
on Echo Delta November,
which is due to fly to Tel Aviv at ten past eight.
Going on one, give us a call when you're ready.
It has to be done in a ground run pen, with a special acoustic
lining to muffle the sound.
It's already 4.30, and the team are having problems installing
the new fuel metering unit.
We've got a little leak. Now it may be that when we put it together
we might have pinched the seal,
maybe, or it's just a little...
we just nipped it up and it may or may not cure it, we don't know yet.
They think they've got a fuel leak on the run.
So they've just opened it to have a look at it.
Well, I mean, obviously, we're just going to have to roll up
at the moment, yeah, literally just roll the whole pack up.
With each aircraft allocated a route the scheduler has to move
the sick plane as far back in the morning schedule as possible
in the hope that the extra time will be enough to bring it online.
So I'm just basically creating a "what if" situation, so if worst
comes to the worst, we can literally stretch it back to 11 o'clock,
that'll be the next departure which will be at Tel Aviv then.
Right, let's give that another couple of minutes or so
and then I'll shut it down again, OK?
Not including man power,
the airline spends around £625 million a year on engineering.
Yeah, it's probably in the region of a quarter of a million dollars
for a fuel metering unit for an Airbus aircraft.
I think if you do the sort of work that we do, you tend to be
isolated from the real costs because it is so vast, you know, one
fuel unit is as much as your house, that you tend not to
think about it in the same terms as, as everybody else but, er,
I think we recognise that there is a vast cost to maintaining aircraft.
With the flight schedule starting in under an hour,
the news for Echo Delta November is not good.
Is that exactly the same place?
OK, all right, if it's coming from exactly the same place then we might
just have to go through another seal there.
All right, here we go.
I'm not sure how long it's going to take but, er,
at this moment in time it's, er, broken.
OK, thanks then. Chippy?
-You're going to have to do a swap with the Beirut.
It needs to come back in to take the fuel unit off again.
Even with 100 Airbuses in the fleet, it's not
just as simple as swapping an aircraft.
Cos it's the M6 fleet, it's running out of Terminal 1,
the 321 Airbus fleet down there is very specific,
the reason being is because we offer a flatbed service
to our passengers, and so it's a very specific seating.
The thing that could happen is that er, nine o'clock, is that if
Echo Delta November doesn't come up then, er, we could go into problems.
Although there are two aircraft still being worked on,
the team's juggling has meant they start the morning with
only one half-hour delay.
Driving into Cranebank at dawn,
Jodie is painfully aware of how important it is to stay on schedule.
I've never ever got up this early in my life, never, this is torture.
Just two weeks into the course,
the new recruits already know what flights await them.
I think I'm going to Paris
and then I've got Nairobi after Christmas and I get to like play
with the animals, which'll be lovely. I don't know, it might be dangerous
so I might have to just stay in the hotel and sip on pina coladas.
Morning, everybody. How are we all?
On today's agenda, medical training.
Your lungs and liver might come out as well.
So, we'll do as we did yesterday, listen, we'll do as we did yesterday
and go around the room...
For Jodie, the studying is paying off.
Jodie, number four, you are assisting a health care professional
who needs to insert a catheter - lovely day you're having -
from someone suffering from urine retention, you need to...?
What would you need to do, Jodie?
Erm, is it B?
Peel back the sterile packaging of the catheter, add some tepid water
to activate the dry gel solution, and it's ready for use, exactly.
But there's no multiple choice answer on how to deal with the dead.
This is a very grey subject, isn't it, because it's on the day.
The main thing is you cannot block a door, you cannot put a dead
passenger in the toilet, it is not respectful, and also they are
not strapped in for landing. If they slid off the toilet, which
could easily happen when you land, they will end up on the floor and
they have to take the aircraft apart to get that person out and it's, can
you imagine putting somebody in one of the aircraft toilets? It's not...
So, in a nice, easy world, which somebody dying on an aircraft isn't,
you put them back in their seat. I know crew that have
had to sit next to somebody that's passed away for the rest
of the flight, and it's, all of this is such a horrible topic.
Could you make them maybe look like they're asleep,
put a blanket over them...?
We used to do, many years ago, give them a vodka and tonic,
a Daily Mail, and a, you know, eye shades
and be like, yeah, they're fine. We don't do... Literally, you would
put them where you can, cover them with a blanket up to here.
To be honest, please don't think that
when you first go online you're going to have a death, a birth,
a fire, a decompression,
and then you're going to ditch on the way back.
In the afternoon, the trainees head to the simulator to
work on their resuscitation skills.
Look how small this environment is. If you have a 14, 15, 20 stone man,
how on earth are you going to move them anywhere but the aisle?
-So, Jodie, you're coming down the cabin.
And one of your passengers is not very well.
Hello, sir, can you hear me? Can you hear me?
There's no response.
OK, head up, we're going to need to do a chest compression,
so, one, two, three.
One, two, three, four, five, six...
..nine, ten, 11...
Just stop it, just once, I just want to give you a help
because you seem to be bouncing the back of your hand up,
so the heel of your hand always must be in contact with the chest.
So, show me some compressions.
That's much better.
Jodie, that's what I want, OK, that's what I need.
That's enough. Round of applause, I think.
-Jodie, you've listened to every word that I have said.
Those compressions were excellent,
so you've done everything that I asked you to do. Well done.
It's a nice place to work...
For most people, plane food means plastic trays and stodgy dishes.
But in the early days food was about creating
the perception of comfort, even luxury, at altitude.
'To this young passenger, there must be a special magic
'about lunch being served so high above the clouds.'
So is everybody clear about what we're doing?
Trying to recreate that sense of magic is chef Mark Tassioli.
So then we're going to go with the braised pork belly and cheek.
He's working with the airline's catering company on
a tasting menu for the A380.
Playing the role of first class passenger is customer service
manager Toby Thompson.
Oh, do me a favour, can you time it?
I don't want it to be too quick, you know,
you can't have five courses, like, wham,
but from your point of view I want to know how comfortable it felt.
Serving him is Sarah Louis.
In three weeks' time she'll be supervising the food on the flight.
Here's our lobster dish.
So it's lobster on a shiso dressing with mango.
Flavour's really good. Better than I thought it would be, actually.
All the hot dishes are reheated in the A380 steam ovens.
Working out the timing is key.
He's finished that course already, and we've still got another 12...
-..12 minutes to go.
-So, realistically, if he ate it that quick...
Well, let's see how long the whole service takes. OK.
Here we have the pea puree.
Truffle sauce and asparagus.
-It is lovely, enjoy.
But for all the poached lobster and seared scallops,
the chefs know it's not just about taste.
Let's face it, flying on long haul can be a little bit boring
when you're sitting there, you know, when you get your food,
it's one of the only things you've really got to concentrate on,
so actually people can be very...
they've got the time to be quite critical.
The braised pork cheek, the pork belly, the heritage carrots.
Where's our specs?
I don't think we've got enough sauce in it.
Our customers, especially in first, are very detail driven,
they will notice every single detail,
there will be some pressure on the day to make sure it's perfect.
So it looks good apart from, it needs a bit more sauce than that.
We'll check the spec, so probably when you get it on board it'll have more sauce than that.
With safety and medical training done, now the new recruits
must learn what it is to be the face of the airline.
Oh, no. I have bought a spare pair.
Yeah. Down on your ankle.
Already. Oh, my God.
During customer service training they're required to meet
uniform standards at all times.
-Nothing's moving that today.
-Lovely. Thank you very much.
Ladies and gentlemen, are we happy to begin?
If you've got a handbag on one shoulder
and then your bag on the other shoulder,
you're all going to be ruffled and your shoulder pads are going to come up.
-That's all right.
Patrick. Beware your scarf.
Yeah, put it round, and it just fell down now.
Somebody said something in the canteen as well, I was like it's my first day, don't worry,
I'm going to get told now how to put it on.
Are we all happy? Good morning.
Constant self scrutiny is demanded of all BA cabin crew.
The new recruits are shown their imperfections...
..with the help of some special mirrors.
Are you looking the part?
The magic mirrors, they are mirrors essentially
but when you approach the mirror you will see a member of our staff
wearing the uniform to the correct standard, and it's
something that the delegates can model themselves against.
You're looking very baggy at the front there.
I would perhaps suggest that some are a little bit
overwhelmed by how much their uniform is going to be
looked at at every single step of the journey, but, you know,
there's no room for ambiguity and they're all well informed.
It could be nine o'clock in the morning, four o'clock
in the afternoon, your hair and make-up must look immaculate.
This is an amnesty day and we won't snapshot you today but if the
behaviour continues then obviously from here on in it's a snapshot.
If the recruits stray from the required uniform standards
they could be off the course.
The trainers must reinforce just how critical it is to meet
expectations, especially when it comes to premier customers.
Everybody's got aircraft made by Boeing or Airbus,
we all fly to the same destinations and we've all got flatbeds,
so what can we do to stand out?
-The service, and that all comes down to you guys.
Now, let's talk money.
So, say we're going to Los Angeles, that's
a ten-and-a-half hour flight,
how much do you think a Club World ticket is?
For a fully flexible...
John just hit the nail on the head.
What did you just say, John?
You want your money's worth.
With a smile, in the premium way.
You're going to be expecting the very best.
£9,500 return to LA for ten-and-a-half hours, for me
it's like the other half live.
That's nearly my entire year's wages.
It's just so crazy,
I can't believe someone paying that much, like, it makes me feel really
worried, I'm actually really worried.
Like, I'm actually scared... Like, how...
They must expect so much if they're paying nine grand for a flight.
Like, that's just crazy, isn't it?
At Heathrow, there are no free tickets to fly,
although in engineering they do sometimes find the odd stowaway.
We did have an incident where somebody had tried to
stowaway on board the aeroplane.
But fortunately he didn't realise it was coming over here and, of course,
when we opened the undercarriage door to do a check he fell out.
What would have happened if he, if he'd flown?
He would have died. It's minus 56 or more, plus you haven't got any
oxygen in there, so you will die.
I think we need to ask them to come and re-hoover this bit of the carpet.
-So if we just raise that one as a generic for the whole cabin
-then we know that they'll sweep through.
I'll just check those outboard bins.
It's the night before the A380's inaugural flight to Los Angeles
and for detail obsessed Catherine it's time for another check.
We're just really making sure that the finish is exactly as it
was on delivery.
Was there anything picked up on this one at all?
Yes, so there was some scratch marks on the suitor door which you
Our job is just to make sure she's looking tiptop condition.
You might damage it on the way in from say LA before the next
person that gets in your suite on the next flight would never know.
That's our aim going forwards.
Whether in the first class cabin, or in economy,
the airline needs the A380 to be a success.
With Heathrow slots full, they can't put on any more flights.
The only way to increase passenger numbers is to have bigger planes.
Is that right?
Cos I'd have it slightly higher.
So should I put mine higher?
The end of training is in sight for the new recruits.
Nerves are on edge, especially for those with snapshots.
If a trainee accumulates four, it means they're off the course.
Patrick, you obviously need to get him in before we start the next section.
Susan, do you mind staying in the room as a witness?
-No, of course I will.
-Hi, Patrick, take a seat.
Patrick has landed his third snapshot for not remembering
the seat configurations on the long haul aircraft.
Seat lettering across a row of World Traveller seats.
It's 3-4-3, and you've put 2-4-2, and then there's one more.
-You got that door wrong, you've got them inboard not outboard.
Well, it's not OK, but I don't know what I can do, not a lot I can do about it.
Cos I do know, I do know the 747 technical,
and I do know the 777 technical.
-Right, but you know what's coming next.
-I do, yes.
The snapshot I'm going to be delivering to you is going to
be a third snapshot, which results in a written warning.
-We can't afford to get another snapshot now.
-No, I can't.
-Cos that would be four snapshots, and you know the limit is four.
I just want to stress the importance to you. Our expectations are that you don't get any more snapshots.
It is very, very strict, I didn't expect it to be so strict,
but if I get another snapshot then that would be pretty much it.
Then that means I've got nothing, I don't even want to think
about that, cos I've not got no job, I give up my job to be here, I've
saved up like literally thousands of pounds to be here so if, if that
ever happened, touch wood it never would, I don't even know what I'd do.
# ..if you don't reply... #
At Heathrow Terminal 5, the crew are arriving for
the inaugural long haul A380 flight to LA.
# ..reply to me only
# Give it up
# Give it up... #
And for the big send off to Hollywood, the airline has
booked Melanie C and X Factor winner Matt Cardle.
# It's not enough
# For this heart. #
For all staff, the first port of call is the crew report centre.
For the first flight on the highly competitive LA route
some of the company's most important customers are on board.
The pressure's on to deliver a seamless service, especially if,
like Sarah, you're serving the new tasting menu.
I'm actually really nervous.
Honestly, I haven't slept, I've slept two hours, it's
a bit of disbelief, because it's all happening now.
So, I'm actually here in the CRC, and it's even more nerve-racking
because you see everyone that you're going to be flying with.
-Are you confident?
-Yeah, I'm as confident as you can be.
There's time for a pep talk from customer service manager,
Do you know what, gang, I'm going to sit down.
It's an incredibly high profile flight today,
quite genuinely, you know, the world is watching, our competitors
are watching, so, do you know what, the pressure is on, I won't lie,
but you're all sat here for a reason.
Personally, as your manager on the day,
I've got 100% faith in each and every one of you. It is just
an aeroplane, yeah? A galley's a galley, a teapot's a teapot, door's a door,
it's just a wee bit bigger this one, and can we all just contract
with each other now that we're going to look after each other, yeah?
..do number three, if you're happy?
As the plane goes through its final checks...
I'm Frank van der Post.
..meeting and greeting its first passengers is Frank van der Post.
Yeah, it's a quick trip for me!
Exciting moment, isn't it?
It's quite special.
We're going through this door, right, yeah.
If you want to just head straight across and turn right, OK?
While business class tickets will cost in the thousands of pounds,
economy will cost several hundred, but come with a little less space.
Six years after it was first ordered,
the airline's A380 is finally on its way to Hollywood.
So, on this session we're going to have a look at how do
we manage challenging situations.
It's the afternoon session for the cabin crew recruits.
The focus is on customer service.
HE SNORES LOUDLY
For trainer Si there's a chance to show off his dramatic skills
with some role plays on how to handle difficult situations.
Alice has to cope with an obese passenger who can't do up his belt.
Can I just ask you all to fasten your seat belts, please?
-Mine doesn't fit.
-I'll go and get you an extension seat belt, we can attach.
-Oh, no, no.
OK, we do need to make sure your seat belts are fastened.
Have you got a blanket or something I can put over the top of it, then?
I'm afraid we need to make sure that seat belts are visible at all times.
-What did she say?
-Need to be visible at all times.
Need to be visible at all times, and again it's that assertive
behaviour that we want to see when you are challenged by a customer, we
want to see you actually doing things like that, really well done, Alice.
Jodie is tasked with communicating with a French woman.
Bonjour. Would you be able to, er..
Je ne comprends pas l'anglais.
(That's why I tried as well.)
SHE SPEAKS ODDLY
What is she speaking?
If you don't speak the language, please don't try to think
that you sound French.
Think how you would feel. First and foremost you, you'd be a little bit insulted.
Please don't try to do it with another accent.
Mr Dalton, here's your seat, OK.
So you're just right on the edge.
Already on two snapshots,
Jodie is struggling with the role play scenarios.
Where's your trolley?
Hello, sir, can I get you something to drink?
-Yeah, I'll have a red wine, please.
Just to inform you, this customer is visually impaired.
Remember that booklet we gave you on day one,
it tells you how to talk to our customers who are visually impaired,
describing where you're placing things on the tray table.
Imagine a clock, so talk about
you're going to place it in the six o'clock position.
I'm going to put...
I'm going to place your wine...
(..in the nine o'clock position, I'm sorry.)
Lovely, thank you.
With the instructors watching closely,
the pressure is on for the tea service.
Here's your cup of tea, sir,
would you like any sugar or sweetener in it?
Explain where you've put it, so think about it,
the clock face, in the 12 o'clock position.
Your teapot's in the 12 o'clock pos... Why are you laughing?
Sorry, that's my fault, sorry.
Jodie, just to let you know, if I could get through.
The cup of tea is in the 12 o'clock position for you, OK?
And you've got a little chocolate just left of it, OK?
Jodie, I'm just going to finish off the coffee service,
so I just need to squeeze past, thank you.
Would you like another coffee?
It's all about team work, communicate.
And this is for everybody, OK, it's really important to read that
booklet I gave you on additional needs customers.
Were you trying not to laugh? Oh, that's good, then.
But he thinks I was crying, so that's even better.
He was like Jodie, Jodie, don't get upset.
Jodie's performance lands her her third snapshot.
Basically, I couldn't take the fact that my friends were acting...
..differently, I don't know, it just made me laugh.
So I didn't stay focused. When I was serving them,
I found it slightly funny, but, you know, I just wish that I'd
stayed focus cos at the end of the day they weren't being assessed,
I was, so I just accepted the snapshot and just said I'm sorry.
So are you worried?
Yeah, of course, really worried, like.
Imagine now I have a ladder in my tights or I've got a little
bit of hair sticking out, that's a snapshot,
so it could be something so small
that could get me kicked off the course, I've just got to, I've
got to watch my back like 24/7 cos any little thing could jeopardise
all this hard work and, you know,
all these sleepless nights, you know.
It's a few hours in to the A380's inaugural flight
and the moment of truth for Sarah and her new first class menu.
Seared scallops with pea puree, asparagus and truffle sauce, OK?
Regular first class traveller
Dr Peter Walker takes 300 flights a year.
For him and his guest, expectations run high.
Yeah, it's certainly one of the most sophisticated British Airways
menus I've seen served.
Ambitious, as you say, always nice to try new things.
It's also a heck of a lot of food here, three, four starters,
the sustainability sourced Severn and Wye cod, which
I still don't understand, because cod is an Atlantic fish.
Then you have this whole light bites, very, very ambitious.
Exciting new plane, exciting new first class...
proposition - they've had to push the boat out, and let's see how,
see how they deliver.
To start with they've opted for the souffle and the brioche.
I'm doing the brioche and the souffle.
Yeah, I'll plate that up for you.
-But will the reheated food deliver?
I'd like to apologise.
I'll have to try a bit, do you mind?
Of course you will.
It would be overly optimistic to think that they could deliver a souffle.
If I had to put that into a word, I'd say it's a disaster.
The only thing I can taste in that are the little seeds.
Whatever that seed is in it, it's overbearing.
Gruyere cheese with wholegrain mustard souffle with
autumn vegetable salad.
You have this experience in your mind of what might come
and then you have that.
-Visually, it's disappointing.
-How is yours?
The parfait itself delivers a, an acceptable flavour,
it's good, it's light, as a parfait should be,
the brioche is where this is disappointing.
Brioche should be crispy on the outside
and soft on the inside and that's just solid all the way through.
It's like one of those toasts you buy in a French supermarket.
Rising to the challenge of first class expectations is never simple.
I don't believe it's over ambitious because it's what our customers
have been asking us for, for a long time, which is why we're doing it.
Um, I think over ambitious, no, um, teething problems, yes.
But Frank is staying positive.
It's very well cooked, nice and moist, so far so good.
The second meal serve is coming.
All sleepy now,
who knows, they wake up cranky, I don't know.
Back at Cranebank, there's some bad news.
One of the recruits has been given their fourth and final snapshot.
Guys, welcome back from lunch. As you probably notice, there's
one team member missing. Patrick unfortunately won't join,
won't be joining us for the remainder of this course.
Um, now I know it's not, it's a very difficult piece of information
for you to digest now but we had to make that decision.
We're here, of course, to support you so we will respect and wait for
you and how much time you need.
Would you all like a moment?
OK. So we'll be here, so do, do come back.
You think it's always a possibility
but you never think it will actually happen.
He was such a big character so, um, people have been really sad,
and a bit puzzled.
It is quite hard cos you don't really want to see
anybody off the course, but this is the process and this is what
we do at British Airways, this is the way that we do it.
-Do they get a chance to say goodbye?
They don't, they don't get the chance to say goodbye to
any of their colleagues on the course, so, um, a trainer would
go in and collect the belongings of the delegate that's been terminated.
I'm absolutely gutted. I think it would have been
an asset for British Airways to have Patrick on board.
I knew him to be reliable, I knew him
to be hard working. These things happen, his fourth snapshot was
issued on the basis of being two minutes late to class.
It is almost like being in the military.
The trainer said obviously you can't be late for a flight, you know...
Absolutely, on time performance is key,
but that's why we have airport stand-bys, is it not?
They've already got that mitigation process in place.
And to put so much time and effort as Patrick did.
He gave up a job, it's coming up close to Christmas, relocated.
He'd already waited over a year for a position. To put his all into it
and to have his dream snapped away from him, its just gutting to have
something like that just took away from you over silly little things.
The hiring of a younger, cheaper cabin crew to serve its new fleet
has been a big strategic success for the company.
With thousands of eager applicants, the airline can afford to be strict.
You are presenting British Airways,
you are an ambassador for British Airways.
Just because you're not in a classroom doesn't mean
somebody isn't seeing you, you don't know who works for British Airways, and who doesn't.
The airline takes its recruitment process very seriously.
Patrick's departure leaves the rest of the trainees in
no doubt of just how much the airline expects from them.
It starts from day one, there is no, "Oh, we'll let you off this time."
You get a snapshot if you're wrong
and then you get out if you've got too many. So, I think the course
is intense to show you this is what you're getting into, a bit
of a heads up rather than being a total shock on your first flight.
Touching down at LAX, this A380 is a sign that, with a new workforce
and a new fleet, BA is growing again.
As it fights for its position in the highly competitive airline
industry, it will find, like Patrick,
there is little room for error.
Trouble in New York as the snow hits.
This is our fourth major snow event and it is a little iffy.
Its panda-monium when the airline opens a new route to China.
Currently, the systems are down, we're trying to resolve it.
And on three snapshots...
..will Jodie make it to graduation?
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 six-week training course designed to uncover who is - and who is not - BA.