British Airways (BA) has set out plans that will see 12,000 of its staff made redundant because of the global collapse in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline's parent company International Airlines Group (IAG), said a restructuring and redundancy programme that would primarily affect BA was being put to trade unions as it looked to the future beyond the coronavirus pandemic and the grounding of the vast majority of its fleet.
The airline’s chief executive, Alex Cruz, told BA’s 42,000 staff on Tuesday night that the company “must act decisively now to ensure that British Airways has a strong future” and that means more than one in four jobs must be cut.
Cruz said the UK’s flag carrier airline, which has placed 22,600 people on the government’s furlough scheme, “cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely”.
IAG said it has made a loss of €535m (£465m) in the first three months of this year – with all the damage being done in March.
In the same period last year, the airline group made a profit of €135m. IAG also revealed it had made a one-off loss of €1.3bn – the result of taking out contracts to hedge against the possibility of rising oil prices.
Its statement read: "In light of the impact of COVID-19 on current operations and the expectation that the recovery of passenger demand to 2019 levels will take several years, British Airways is formally notifying its trade unions about a proposed restructuring and redundancy programme.
"The proposals remain subject to consultation but it is likely that they will affect most of British Airways' employees and may result in the redundancy of up to 12,000 of them.
IAG said BA had been hit hardest, with other airlines in the group – Iberia, Aer Lingus and Vueling – feeling less impact.
Unions expressed their shock and disappointment. Brian Strutton, the general secretary of the pilots’ union Balpa, said staff were devastated by the “bolt out of the blue” news and that the union would fight for every job.
“BA pilots and all staff are devastated by the announcement of up to 12,000 possible job losses in British Airways,” he said.
Len McCluskey, leader of Unite union described BA’s decision as heartless, and a “stab in the back”, saying it was entirely at odds with the course of action followed by British Airways as it seeks a way through the coronavirus crisis.
McCluskey said that the airline rejecting government’s support but expecting their own staff to pay the cost of such a misjudgement, is irresponsible, dangerous and destructive.
Meanwhile, EasyJet has laid off 4,000 UK-based cabin crew for two months. Sir Richard Branson has also appealed to the government to help bail out Virgin Atlantic, with a loan thought to be up to £500m.
Elsewhere, Qantas has put 20,000 staff on leave, while Air Canada has done the same for more than 15,200 employees. Norwegian Air has said it could run out of cash by mid-May, while 4,800 pilots at American Airlines have agreed to take short-term leave on reduced pay and more than 700 are taking early retirement.