THE INSIDE TRACK • June 2021
The new British Airways advert has been gracing TV screens across the country, but did you know that real staff from across the airline made up its all-star cast? We grab five minutes with a few of the team to talk about their cinematic debuts and what it means to fly again
Meet the team
Has been with British Airways for 24 years.
Fun fact: Prior to his job at British Airways, Julian was an air-to-air refuelling pilot in the RAF.
Has been with British Airways for seven years, five months.
Fun fact: Moneque was once a registered dental nurse and even worked in fashion as a shoe designer.
Inflight Lead & IFCE Trainer
Has been with British Airways for eight years.
Fun fact: Michael walked from Heathrow to Gatwick to raise money for Dreamflight.
Heathrow Cabin Crew
Has been with British Airways for 23 years.
Fun fact: Manish is also a qualified yoga teacher, teaching holistic Vinyasa style and hot yoga.
So, how did you all end up being involved with the new advert?
Julian Marshall: It started off with us all being asked who’d like to be involved, and I thought it sounded really fun, so I sent off my one-minute video to the casting team. When they came back to say I was in, I thought, “Oh my goodness, it’s real!” I really wanted to be part of something that was going to germinate seeds of optimism.
Monique Gaggioli: To make my audition clip, I went to the park and really made a big thing of it, dressing up and everything, even though it was freezing. That was all part of the fun. To me, this advert is just one of the ways we are able to welcome customers back. It feels like we’re starting a new chapter.
Manish Ramji: I was on furlough and not checking my emails too much but managed to catch the casting email on the deadline date – must have been fate! After filming, I was asked to take some shots in my cabin crew uniform and the pictures ended up on huge billboards all around London. My phone has not stopped buzzing since!
Michael Mitchell: When I saw the email asking to apply, I thought, OK, I’ve got five minutes, and this could end up being a once-in-a-lifetime chance to do something like this. So I took a video explaining my role, why I wanted to be in the advert, and sent in some funny photos with jazz hands. When I was picked, I couldn’t believe it – I didn’t think I had the face for it!
How do you feel about the message of the advert?
Julian Marshall: While we’re all still being cautious, this advert is a celebration to say yes, we’re still here, and we’re ready for you. And it’s about reassurance, too: we also mustn’t underestimate the number of nervous flyers out there who are waiting to be reunited with family abroad. I think a lot of this advert is for them.
Monique Gaggioli: I feel it really reflects the mood in the country right now – a sense that people are raring to get back to some sense of normality. For British Airways colleagues, even if you don’t see yourself in the advert, you might recognise a colleague in it, or recognise aspects of your job, and that in itself is a great morale boost.
Manish Ramji: This advert is really important to show the world that we’re still here, that we’re safe, that we’re taking precautions – that we are ready to fly. I think it’s great that British Airways put this together. It’s a vital message.
Michael Mitchell: When we were filming, everyone was smiling, and I think the advert makes you smile, too. It’s just a really joyful thing and we all need that right now. British Airways is such a well-known brand so, by showing that we’re ready and that we’ve survived this, people can finally start to get excited about holidays again and about seeing their loved ones.
What was your favourite part of the advert?
Julian Marshall: As a viewer, I really like the part where the couple are outside having tea, and one of our cabin crew colleagues runs past and the papers on the table waft, and then he comes back into shot and pours them a cup of tea. That to me just seems so quintessentially English!
Monique Gaggioli: I’d have to say my favourite bit is at the end, with the two guys racing the luggage buggies; they face off and look really intense, but then just move off at about two miles an hour. It’s cute.
Manish Ramji: I love the guy who is a member of cabin crew sliding across the ground really exuberantly at the end! I thought it was Michael and I was telling everyone, I know him, I know him! But is it you, Michael?
Michael Mitchell: That’s actually not me! That’s my friend, Paul Ewen, from Gatwick. He’s lovely.
And which parts of filming did you enjoy the most on the day?
Michael Mitchell: All of us running down the ramp. I don’t know how none of us fell over! We had to do it quite a few times and everyone just kept getting quicker and quicker. We definitely got some funny looks, but it was so much fun. We swapped running in aisles for running down ramps!
Manish Ramji: And all we wanted to do was trip the person I front of us, right? That way we could get to the front! Just kidding! I also really enjoyed filming on the A350 as I am not normally on board those. But the most fun thing was meeting another crew member who I’ve only ever known from Facebook. We’re both into yoga and ended up standing next to each other on the day. We’ve kept in touch since!
Julian Marshall: The ramp was the first thing we did that day, so it does stick in the memory. We started off slowly and then, if you’ll forgive the pun, we ramped up. Then there was quite a lot of downtime between the afternoon scenes. It made you think what would be involved in making a big film; I think there’d be an awful lot of waiting around, actually!
Monique Gaggioli: Some of us on the ramp scene had wheelie bags and things with us, and we were going quite fast. There was a woman running in front of me who lost her shoe, in true Cinderella style, but she just kept going, with a serious face, like ‘nothing is going to take this away from me!’. I had to jump over her shoe, trying not to laugh.
When have you seen customer service that went above and beyond?
Julian Marshall: For us as colleagues, it’s always about going that extra mile, that bit outside of the job description. Whether that’s spending extra time with a customer who’s afraid of flying or walking someone through the terminal building if they’ve got a bit lost after a ten-hour flight. A crew member I know actually gave someone a lift home once after a flight because they’d missed the last train.
Monique Gaggioli: We’ve talked a lot about how the skills we have developed outside of our work roles can also be really useful. Like when we had a customer with a hearing impairment, before realising that one of our crew was fluent in sign language. You could see how relieved they were – that was really nice to see.
Manish Ramji: Most people travelling are having fun or are excited, but then you’ll also get people who aren’t travelling for fun reasons, such as funerals. I remember one passenger in particular who was very upset and I decided not to take my break and to have a cup of tea with him. We actually ended up keeping in touch afterwards.
Michael Mitchell: At Gatwick there were lots of families and I remember one little girl had left her Trunkie suitcase in the terminal. It was too late to go back for it as we were taxiing for take-off, but she was so upset that when I flew back to Gatwick, we managed to find it in lost property and arranged to get it back to her. We always try to provide a ‘money can’t buy’ service.
What are you looking forward to about returning to normal levels of passengers?
Julian Marshall: It’s great getting to interact with people and see them enjoying themselves on the start of what is hopefully an exciting journey. That energy that we’ve been missing from other people is something we probably took for granted before.
Manish Ramji: It’s been such a long time in isolation, hasn’t it? I’m looking forward to getting it all back – the talking, the stories, the banter that you have with colleagues, but with customers as well.
Michael Mitchell: We are an experience provider to a degree, bringing joy and happiness to customers. When I worked with travel agents, I used to say that when you sell holidays you sell happiness. We’ve been isolated for so long, it will be great to get back and have fun with customers again.
What have been some of the biggest challenges of the pandemic era for you and how have you coped with them?
Julian Marshall: Trying to stay optimistic and positive through that period was really tough. I did it by thinking about what’s really important in life and to focus on the importance of family and friends. I lost my father-in-law to Covid-19, so that brought the whole thing home. It’s taught us that we need to be grateful for what we have.
Michael Mitchell: In the blink of an eye, your life can change. My dad was sadly diagnosed with cancer and has been going through radiotherapy and chemo, and not being able to be with him, or give my mum a hug, has been really hard. What has helped, though, has been signing up to help administer the vaccine and that feeling that I have done something good for the country – it’s given me a real sense of focus and kept me busy.
Where would you like to go on holiday when you finally get some leisure time?
Julian Marshall: I love California and the US west coast. We’ve had some lovely trips there in the past, so I think we’ll try and get over there first.
Monique Gaggioli: Top of my list is Sardinia. I’ve been before and want to return to somewhere with fond memories. There’s still lots to see and I love the people, the food and the culture. During lockdown I started teaching myself Italian, so I am keen to get out and practise.
Manish Ramji: Ever since I saw the film Eat Pray Love, I have wanted to go to Bali. There are so many amazing yoga retreats. I have been planning Bali for the past two years and since it’s my 50th birthday this year I am hoping to get over there and celebrate.