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By Ian King, business presenter

“I’ve had plenty of luck over the last five years, all of it bad.”

So said Sir Rod Eddington, former chief executive of British Airways, the man who steered the airline through the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 and an outbreak of the SARS virus 18 months later.

Sir Rod, an easy-going Australian who was liked by just about everyone in the industry including BA’s arch-rival Sir Richard Branson, was reflecting not on 9/11 but on an industrial dispute that afflicted BA just as he was preparing to step down in August 2005.

A strike at Gate Gourmet, a contract catering firm that supplied meals to BA, spilled over into the airline itself – costing it around £ 45m in canceled flights.

The relevance of this episode, 17 years ago, is that it highlighted problems specific to BA at Heathrow – where the main staff unions had a reputation for being more militant than elsewhere around the country.

Read more of Ian’s analysis below.

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