British Airways plans to lose more than 1,100 pilots and make heavy cuts to its Gatwick airport operation as part of 12,000 redundancies.
The airline has informed staff of detailed plans after it announced on Tuesday evening that it intended to lay off up to 30% of its workforce.
Letters sent to union representatives for all sections of the airline set out swingeing cuts, as well as drastic changes to terms and conditions across the company as it responds to the grounding of most air travel since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
BA plans to lay off almost four in five crew managers at Gatwick and 60% of other cabin crew, more than 1100 of almost 1900 staff. The jobs of just over 400 ground staff will be outsourced to the airport and its contractors.
In emails to staff and unions, managers at BA warned that “there is no certainty as to when services can return” to London City or Gatwick airports, and that they had “not ruled out suspending the remainder of our Heathrow operation”.
Ground staff at Heathrow are also likely to be forced to accept the same contracts as recent starters, which pay around £10,000-15,000 less, according to employees.
All 4,346 pilots will be asked to sign new contracts changing their terms and conditions, and accept new rostering arrangements. BA will be seeking to lay off 1130 pilots.
Pilots union Balpa said it would fight to save every pilot job. The general secretary, Brian Strutton, said: “The company has declined government support claiming it is financially secure enough to survive the coronavirus crisis, so it is hard to see how these cuts can be justified.
“There are many options to ensure BA can continue its business and survive coronavirus and Balpa does not accept that job losses are the only answer.”
The Unite union has described BA’s moves as “unlawful and immoral”.
Around 22,000 BA employees were furloughed in April and May, while pilots accepted unpaid leave instead of furloughing to allow them to restart swiftly should travel recommence.
BA’s parent company IAG announced the planned redundancies to the Stock Exchange on Tuesday. In a memo to staff, the BA chief executive, Álex Cruz, said: “What we are facing as an airline … is that there is no ‘normal’ any longer.
“We do not know when countries will reopen their borders or when the lockdowns will lift, and so we have to reimagine and reshape our airline and create a new future for our people, our customers and the destinations we serve.”
IAG has declined to seek government help, unlike Virgin Atlantic, which has so far been rebuffed, or EasyJet, which has received a £600m Bank of England loan.
BA may not reopen at Gatwick once pandemic passes
British Airways has told staff that its Gatwick airport operation may not reopen after the coronavirus pandemic passes.
The admission came in a memo, written by the head of BA’s Gatwick hub and seen by BBC News.
BA’s Gatwick operation, which is currently suspended, is roughly a fifth as big as its Heathrow hub.
In a separate letter to pilots, BA said it cannot rule out suspending the rest of its Heathrow operation.
In the memo to Gatwick’s staff, the company says: “As you know, we suspended our Gatwick flying schedule at the start of April and there is no certainty as to when or if these services can or will return.”
In the letter to pilots, BA notes that some of its rivals abroad are facing tough competition. It adds that a quarter of BA’s 4,300 pilots are set to lose their jobs.
“We need to ensure that our remaining operation is efficient, flexible and cost-competitive to enable us to survive in an increasingly lean and unpredictable industry,” says the letter from senior management.
On Tuesday, BA said it was set to cut up to 12,000 jobs from its 42,000-strong workforce because of a collapse in business due to the Covid-19 lockdown.
The airline’s parent company, IAG, said it needed to impose a “restructuring and redundancy programme” until demand for air travel returns to 2019 levels.
The pilots’ union Balpa said it was “devastated” and vowed to fight “every single” job cut.
Survival at stake
BA has been flying from Gatwick for decades. Before its merger with BOAC in 1974 to form BA, BEA flew its first routes from the hub in 1950.
Plane-makers and airlines alike have been struggling to cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their businesses.
On Monday, aerospace giant Airbus announced it was furloughing 3,200 staff at its north Wales site.
Hours earlier, Airbus chief executive Guillaume Faury had warned the company was “bleeding cash at an unprecedented speed”.
Mr Faury also told Airbus’ 135,000 staff to brace for potentially deep job cuts and warned that its survival was at stake without immediate action.
Meanwhile, US aircraft manufacturer Boeing announced that it would cut 10% of its workforce after it said the lockdown had delivered a “body blow” to the business.
Other airlines, including BA’s close rival Virgin Atlantic, have been seeking UK government help.
The aviation industry as a whole has also been lobbying the government for assistance.
On Monday, industry body Airlines UK urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to extend his job retention scheme beyond June.
It said airlines hit by coronavirus would face “a renewed cash crisis” if the scheme were withdrawn prematurely.
British Airways lays off up to 12,000 staff, due to likely air travel decline for years
Madrid-based IAG, the owner of British Airways, says 12,000 of BA’s total staff of 45,000, now face redundancy. The airline is trying to conserve cash to keep going. Passenger numbers are expected to halve compared to 2019. BA had already furloughed more than half (22,626) of its 45,000 workers. In a statement after the close of the Stock Exchange, IAG said: ‘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.” …”There is no Government bailout standing by for BA and we cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely.” News that thousands of people will lose their jobs comes weeks after the airline company’s Spanish owners axed a controversial £300million payout to shareholders earlier this month.