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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.

British Airways to mothball its Waterside head office

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.

British Airways to mothball its Waterside head office

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.

British Airways to mothball its Waterside head office

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)

  • Jim says:

    What will happen to the cat?

    • ChrisC says:

      It’s been purr-sioned off as purr claws in it’s contract.

      Transfur to Meow Fleet not an option what with the 20% loss of treat allowance.

    • Rhys says:

      They have a cat?!

      • Nick says:

        No 😂 There is a cat that decided to take up residence in the car park, and occasionally wanders around the parkland outside. Sadly it’s never been invited inside… shame, because there are hundreds of mice living inside, and a cat would have a great time.

      • Chris Heyes says:

        [email protected] some birds live there as well lol

  • Kieran says:

    Shame. Did some work experience there in the very late nineties. Spent most of the time playing cards on one of the roofs of one of the blocks if I recall, annoying people in the meeting rooms below. I remember all the offices having plasma TVs, which back then was the stuff of dreams. When we left we got to pilfer one of the store cupboards which had boxes of mouse mats with the designs of the then defunct tail designs.

    The second part of the week air-side at Heathrow was much more exciting! Compass Centre, hangars, sat in Concorde. Good times.

    • John T says:

      Hard to believe they didn’t offer a job after that effort…

  • Martin says:

    For reasons I’ve never been quite clear on, some recoloured photos of Waterside were used as the backdrop to BBC Breakfast in the early 2000s. You can see it in this clip:

  • Frankie says:

    The last picture looks pretty much exactly the same as the inside of GSK Headquarters in Brentford (M4, J2). I had to expand the pic and even then I could hardly see any difference. I thought it WAS a pic of GSK’s building by mistake (it’s not)

  • Steve R says:

    The chances of work starting on a 3rd runway any time soon is very low. It wasn’t very likely even before all of this kicked off.

  • Bill says:

    Pity the poor staff who already work on the 10th floor TBC, as they’re told to carry on working from home, but have got to clean out there desks for the staff from waterside to take over using them.

    • Lady London says:

      An office over a car park with a lingering danger of solvent fumes penetration will be a bit of a come down for Waterside residents.

  • Chris says:

    I wonder how many companies, like BA, will agree to pay for utility bills of employees working from home – especially in winter when it becomes expensive to heat homes throughout the day.

    Then there’s breach of contract if an employee’s place of work is an office, but they are being forced to work from home. I wonder if anyone will notice?

    • TokyoFan says:

      Employers can pay staff £6/week extra tax-free for this, or if they don’t, employees can claim tax relief on £6/wk (worth £1.20/wk at 20% tax, £2.40/wk at higher rate) without any receipts, bills etc.

    • amit says:

      Don’t think most are going to risk antagonising management over 20-30 quid a month in the current job market

      • Lady London says:

        Quite. To use a trendy old word, this is a new paradigm for ways of working. We’re all working it out and employers are suffering not just employees.

        German for employer is ‘work giver’ and this is the time to remember that.

    • memesweeper says:

      Lots of companies are closing offices for six months. I think this is a terrible burden to place on staff with poor working from home facilities. I think legislation may be required to ensure employers
      provide some facilities.

      • Lady London says:

        There is legislation. Companies like BP are particularly good at adhering to the letter and spirit of this.

        Employer is as responsible for the standards adherence of the employee’s workplace if it is at home (or, technically, mobile), or on premises the company is responsible for. This extends to ergonomics etc. Companies like BP take this quite seriously and IIRC there was some expenses that could be claimed for office setup etc.

        I am not sure the limits of this. However there’s the law, and there’s being practical in these times. So far the number of people working at home might be deemed emergency status so rules relaxed. But the longer it goes on, employers would be wise to at least lay down some procedures and rules etc to cover their a$$ on this – which is all less good employers currently do anyway.

        However the application of rules about employers having to provide offices did once get me a number of months working out of a suite at The Savoy with a marvellous view over the river and coffee brought on a silver tray instead of out of a vending machine 🙂

    • Colin says:

      Depends where people are travelling from. Some might save commuting costs.

      As for location, most contracts have the head office or “any reasonable location” (something along those lines anyway) regarding workplace so that’s not an issue.

    • ChrisC says:

      It’s not just things like utilities it’s IT equipment, broadband and desks and chairs and what the employer provides (or not)

      I have a friend who is working from home and his employer just expected him to get on with it.

      Anothers employer arranged for a proper chair (like the one he had at the office) to be delivered to his home because working when sat at the dining room table on a dining room chair is not conducive to good health or productivity.

      Some employers have been really good in understanding that they still have a duty of care towards their employees others less so.

      • memesweeper says:

        Good to hear there’s a duty of care being extended to employees by some employers. Many employees simply have no room at home to constantly work from there as they would at a desk in an office, and employers making blanket, long term office closure decisions like this seem to be ignoring their needs.

  • sayling says:

    From the link to Willie’s chagrin:
    Walsh stated that his airlines would not operate routes to airports such as Newquay in Cornwall, “even if [Heathrow chief executive] John Holland-Kaye got down and begged me”.


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