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EXCLUSIVE: British Airways to mothball its Waterside head office

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British Airways is about to mothball most of its Waterside head office for an initial period of at least six months.

This is happening very quickly, with staff meant to be moving out over the next week or so. This is what the press office told us:

We are exploring every option to control our costs. We have a large property estate and we are always seeking ways to manage it in the optimum way.

The majority of back office staff will continue to operate from home, as they have been for the past few months.  There are conflicting reports on whether operational staff will remain in the building – BA says they will – but there will be minimal cost savings if Waterside has to remain partially open.

It is our understanding that the airport operations team will move into the British Airways offices at Terminal 5, whilst the global operations team – including senior management – are going into Technical Block C at Hatton Cross.

Technical Block C is where the British Airways Global Learning Academy is now based, and where the engineering operation is currently based.  It is this building:

British Airways to mothball its Waterside head office

….. which has engine workshops on the lower levels.

The move will be for a minimum of six months, potentially longer, which means that the majority of staff won’t return to Waterside until 2021. This presumably means that BA expects back-office staff to be working from home for a while yet.

It’s all water under the bridge…

Waterside was supposed to be a revolutionary change for British Airways, as it consolidated 4,000 staff across 14 separate buildings into one and introduced open plan working to the company for the first time. It was also supposed to save British Airways £15 million per year in property costs.

The building is set in 240 acres of landscaped grassland and waterways. Designed by Norwegian Architect Niels Torp, the site is made up of six four story buildings connected by a large glass-covered 175m long ‘street’. The design is supposed to encourage ‘social interaction and informal meeting’ amongst staff.

Each building is themed after a continent British Airways flies to. For example, cherry trees blossom around Orient House whilst eucalyptus are in Australia, and Birch saplings surround Europe House.

Waterside opened in 1998 at a cost of £200 million. Its years may be cut short, however, as it is in line for demolition if and when the third runway is built.  The building is situated directly on what is proposed to become tarmac, much to Willie Walsh’s chagrin.

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Comments (61)

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  • Lady London says:

    Good move by BA.
    If forced to move to the Hatton Cross building, if working fulltime there I would be a bit worried about exposure to paint and chemical vapours seeping up through the building. Sometimes locations with issues like this are approved as offices if theyre going to be used as training centres or similar where the same people are not there fulltime.

    The Excel centre is on a very polluted site and similar restrictions applied there.

    • Oh! Matron! says:

      So long as they don’t change the outside of the building. I love the brutalism architecture, especially when staying across the road at the HGI

      • The Savage Squirrel says:

        Think you’re the only one that does 😀 .

      • BlueThroughCrimp says:

        Agreed! I do like a good bit of brutalism.

        • Josh says:

          It looks apocalyptically awful. What were the architects of the 60s and 70s smoking?

          • Brian says:

            Paint and chemicals, presumably.

          • Lady London says:

            Speaking of smoking, in the 80’s you couldn’t see fully across the computer room of one of my clients (music business) for pot smoke.

    • Desk Pilot says:

      I worked in TBC back when a lot of the IT department were there (1996 – 2000), and a call centre on the lower floors. There were workshops on the ground floor with the paintshop over the way in TBJ. The canteen in TBJ had a great view of the paintshop floor.

      I don’t think I suffered any ill effects, cough.

  • George K says:

    Regretting not checking out the Heritage Centre when I had the chance…

    • Andrew says:

      I was at Waterside for an event last summer and stayed around for a bit at the end and had a look in the heritage centre (just a couple of weeks before the Queen made her centenary visit) and it was really interesting. There’s also some sets of Concorde seats in an informal meeting area in the ‘street’. Plus a mini Waitrose. I was very envious of those working there….

  • Steve says:

    Good lord that’s an ugly building (Technical Block C)

    • insider says:

      it’s basically just a car park with an office on the roof. Good views though!

      • Beetle says:

        . . . And during a snowy winter the entrance/exit ramp is a great resource for improving your sledging and skiing skills but ensure the safety department have installed the padded safety barriers at the run off area.

  • Beetle says:

    Waterside, a beautiful showcase headquarters populated by a very privileged group of people.
    A high end small supermarket and a gym included plus more coffee shops than the high street. When ever I’ve visited I’ve been impressed by the very laid back atmosphere.
    Unfortunately I believe the remote showcase fostered a style of management very removed from the front end operation, producing many wonderful plans that just frustrate the hands on workforce.

  • Dubious says:

    BA could make a few quid by opening up Waterside for public tours…if they selling artwork…why not.
    No staff to infect if they have moved out.

    • C77 says:

      And 36,000 motives to drive a slurry lorry past the main entrance with the outlet valve set to open….

      • Lady London says:

        That Stockley Park campus has good security at the gate so sadly your $h1t wagon wouldn’t make it in @C77

  • Lady London says:

    This is a bit more credible about BA needing to save costs than selling off some cr*p art, isn’t it ?

    • Chrisasaurus says:

      Unclear – if indeed parts of the workforce are still working there then they’re not closing anything- moving a few folks to TBC and the wfh staff continuing to wfh is not massively meaningful if they’re keeping waterside open, and that is definitely not mothballing!

  • ChrisC says:

    Not sure how much they would save in the lone run.

    They could get 3 months rate relief on an empty property but having plans to move back in would seem to indicate that wouldn’t apply plus they’d be back to full whack from month 4 onwards. I can’t be bothered to look up the rateable value to calculate it but it’s on the website

    They would save some costs of utilities if no one is using electricity or gas or water. Insurance would still need to be paid as would cost of security and alarms

    And there would be costs of moving IT and other equipment out and then back in again.

    Perhaps HAL could just take it over and demolish it now?

  • Fenny says:

    Waterside reminds me of working in the new BNFL building on the UKAEA site at Risley in the 80s. One of my jobs was to arrange the move of 120 people from 5 different buildings across the site into one section of one floor of the whizzy new place. But we only had vending machines, unlike the old blocks who had tea trollies.

    • Andreas says:

      Hinton house? It’s still an interesting building from the outside – looks vaguely like a Japanese building as BNFL (British Nuclear Fuels Limited – now Sellafield Ltd) wanted to represent their strong links with the Japanese at the time. It is very grim inside though, especially in winter. It’s also an absolute maze, as it’s W shaped – each crossroads at the corner of each W looks exactly the same!

      • Fenny says:

        Yes. I worked on the 3rd floor East end. Quick exit to the canteen at lunchtime. There was a link on the 3rd floor that ran across the back of the W. Once you got the hang of it, it was fine. One of my co-workers had hens, so I had an egg round that covered most of the floors.

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