If you thought that being, say, leader of the Conservative Party or Manchester United manager was bad for job security, it is nothing compared to being the British Airways ‘Head of Customer Experience’.
This is a role which has defeated many people.
The first person to hold the title was, I think, Frank van der Post. Frank joined from Jumeirah Hotels, the Dubai-based hotel group with a strong reputation for customer service. Despite being well liked in the frequent flyer community, Frank left in 2014 after four years, allegedly frustrated with not being given the money he wanted for investment.
Arguably it has been downhill since Frank left.
Frank was replaced by Troy Warfield. Warfield only lasted 18 months. His appointment raised eyebrows at the time because he had no airline experience, having previously worked at Avis and Kimberley-Clark, where he oversaw Andrex in Europe.
Warfield was replaced in 2017 by Carolina Martinoli who had done a similar role at Iberia. She was later promoted to the IAG board as Chief People Officer.
Tom Stevens, previously head of airport operations for BA, picked up the customer experience mandate on an interim basis during the pandemic. He was confirmed in the role in early 2021.
After a year, Stevens also appears to have been beaten by the job. Is there anyone out there who can take on the challenge of improving the British Airways customer experience without spending any money?
BA told us in a statement:
After a successful tenure as our Director of Brand and Customer Experience, Tom Stevens has informed [us] that he has taken the difficult decision to leave the company to pursue his ambition to work overseas. Tom joined us as a graduate just over 10 years ago and his talent was obvious from the start. His drive, energy and commitment to BA saw him rise through the ranks, holding roles in Procurement, IAG and Aer Lingus before moving to become Head of Customer for us at Heathrow and subsequently Head of Worldwide Airports. Tom is an incredible customer champion and has ensured continuous improvement during his time with us as a Director, bringing innovative thinking to everything he takes on.
Stevens is being replaced by Calum Laming, who was only promoted to Director of Business Recovery in February. Laming was previously Chief Customer Officer at Vueling, IAG’s low cost carrier. Vueling, when Alex Cruz was CEO, had a poor record for customer satisfaction although there have been some improvements since.
Laming does at least understand the coal face, having once worked as cabin crew for Go (a low cost carrier). That said, there were good external candidates available such as Daniel Kerzner, who did the role at Virgin Atlantic pre-covid and previously for Starwood Hotels.
Good luck Calum!