Why does innovation always lead to alienation?

British Airways originally changed its identity to reflect its position as a global airline – and to reflect an image of Britain that would be more attractive to customers around the world – Britain as modern, dynamic and outward-looking, respecting different cultures.

This is an image of “New Britain” which many people in the UK and abroad find more attractive than the conservative, parochial, old-fashioned image which has been undermining Britain’s success in export markets for many years. BA’s move reflected a new confidence in Britain, and a new willingness and determination to be internationalist in outlook. It was not unpatriotic – rather it was simply a reflection of a new way in which Britain could play a leading role in the world.

It is unsurprising – though, of course, deeply depressing – that the minority of customers who objected to this step forward were British businessmen – and Mrs Thatcher. Of course, the Union Jack is a powerful symbol of Britishness – but surely it cannot be the only one?

BA should be commended for its responsiveness to an important customer group – but in this case the customers were wrong. If there were a legitimate criticism of the “old” identity, it would be that it lacked coherence, and undermined recognition.

Is the general glee at BA’s U-turn just another example of a damaging tendency in Britain to undermine those who dare to innovative?

Dorothy Mackenzie



London W1

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