Further details have emerged of the vast restructuring programme at British Airways in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The airline has sent a letter to its 4,346 pilots stating that it needed to reduce headcount by 1,130; 955 because of the need for “volume adjustment” and 175 as result of what it terms “efficiency changes”.
Seniority will not be a protection for air crew with the cuts being split evenly between captains and co-pilots.
In the letter, called Collective Consultations – Preparing for a Different Future – the airline stated: “We are now at a critical juncture and must table proposals for structural change so that our business is in a credible position to respond to what will be a challenging and uncertain trading environment for a sustained period of time.”
Pilots at Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus have not received similar letters as yet from IAG it is thought.
In a hint at worsened conditions for pilots, the letter also says the company will change practices to “ensure our remaining operation is efficient, flexible and cost-competitive to enable us to survive in an increasingly lean and unpredictable industry”.
Working conditions will also change, the letter said, with the introduction of policies that would bring extra “flexibility into rostering, scheduling and the current operations environment”.
The pilots’ unions Balpa this week was highly critical of the redundancy announcement and vowed to fight the job cuts. General secretary Brian Strutton said that the union “does not accept that a case has been made for these job losses and we will be fighting to save every single one”.
BA’s letter said the company would begin a statutory 45-day consultation and “would very much look to see Balpa engaged in the development of our proposals”.
The letter, seen by Sky News, said a voluntary redundancy scheme would be prohibitively expensive and that the company would meet only its statutory obligations when making pilots redundant.
BA also confirms that it may ground the rest of its fleet by suspending operations entirely from Heathrow.
“We have not ruled out suspending the remainder of our Heathrow operation,” the letter states.
In 2011, BA merged with Spain’s Iberia airline creating the IAG holding company, registered in Madrid. Until 1987 it was a nationalised company.
IAG is the world’s third-largest airline group in terms of annual revenue and the second-largest in Europe. So far it has not appealed to the governments of either Spain or the UK for state aid. In March Willie Walsh, CEO said: “I think individual airlines have been approaching governments looking for state aid, we have not done so.
“Governments would expect airlines to look at self help before they would call on governments to provide state aid.”
Since then EasyJet, the UK’s largest airline, has secured a £600m emergency loan from the government and across Europe airlines have queued up to request government money.
In Austria, the government responded to a request for public support by Austrian Airlines (part of the Lufthansa group) by saying any bailout should be linked to climate targets.
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