Shhh! Heard about Project Lauren

A slightly odd way of going about business, but it seems activity is underway at British Airways’ planned operation between mainland Europe and the USA. As far as I can tell, this ad is recruiting the advance guard for Willie Walsh’s skirmishing raid into occupied Europe. Not a bad way to make a living if you’re hustling for your break into long-haul with a steady pension at the end.

I suspect though that you’ll earn it. Consider: why exactly is BA having to recruit crews for what appears to be called Project Lauren? (And why is it called Project Lauren? If you know, do tell.)

BA has 13 757s and 12 767s in service. It’s been talking about using just four 757s on the European operation, though I don’t think it’s actually said they’d come from the existing fleet.

So it looks as if Laurenair (or whatever) is not going to be drawing on the current workforce. My guess is that BA is going to set this up as a lean and mean, standalone, company with separate terms and conditions for the workforce.

With Willie ultimately running the show, that implies highly competitive fares and what the British sports writers call a ‘torrid’ time for one or more European flag-carriers. BA hasn’t yet said which cities it will be serving – but you can be sure Star Alliance and Skyteam will have their spies out.

You may recall that the last time BA tried something rather like this it was called Go. It was a success and it’s quite hard to explain why it was eventually sold to Easyjet. In large part it was due to shareholders’ inability to get their heads round the idea – a phenomenon which sadly deadens the creative spark in most FTSE 100 companies.

Then-CEO Bob Ayling was so battered by the same sorry bunch that I don’t think he had the stomach for the fight – but Willie’s in a happier position and not notably given to agonising over shareholders’ views on life.

This is going to be one of the great stories of 2008.

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