One of the biggest advantages of working for a European-based airline is enjoying the benefits of hard fought for employment laws which go a long way to protect staffers, including cabin crew, from errant employers. Admittedly, there’s a long way to go in some countries and a few airlines have thought of ever more ingenious ways to circumvent the rules (think Ryanair) but by and large, employees know they have quite a bit of protection.
Unfortunately, that kind of security didn’t extend as far as Hong Kong when British Airways decided to close its international cabin crew base in the Chinese territory. The news probably didn’t come as too much of a surprise to the 80-odd cabin crew who were based there – the airline had already shuttered bases in Singapore and Buenos Aires – but the way in which it was carried was definitely unexpected.
As we’ve previously reported, British Airways called the Hong Kong-based cabin crew into a meeting and effectively terminated their employment with immediate effect. Citing commercial reasons for the redundancies, BA said the majority of crew would only receive 7-days worth of pay as severance – but only if they accepted immediate dismissal.
It would unthinkable for a profitable company to dismiss employees with such little notice in the United Kingdom – but because these international cabin crew had local employment contracts, British Airways was perfectly entitled to pull the plug on its Hong Kong base with little notice.
One has to wonder whether British Airways was expecting the backlash it very quickly experienced – or perhaps that was always expected yet they decided to go in with a minimum offer, with the intention of improving it? Who knows.
A new and improved offer
Whatever the case, it looks like BA has decided to significantly improve the redundancy package for its Hong Kong crew. According to insiders, the airline has greatly improved its final settlement which has now been accepted by the cabin crew’s local union in Hong Kong.
The airline is said to have offered a lot more in terms of severance (although exact figures depend on the employee’s time with BA), as well as a year-end bonus, an ex-gratia payment of three months salary and holiday pay. The cabin crew will also benefit from concessionary travel with the airline.
A fundraising campaign for the crew has already raised nearly £80,000 – with donations not only coming from colleagues but also from BA’s very own customers. In a statement, the airline has previously said it was doing everything it could to support the cabin crew.
Future pilots programme
As British Airways looks towards the future – and the worldwide pilot shortage – the airline invited 100 local students to its headquarters near Heathrow Airport last week. Serving flight crew welcomed the students and gave them the low down on what it takes to become a British Airways pilot.
A big focus will be on encouraging female candidates to pursue a career in aviation – currently, women are severely underrepresented in flight decks around the world. British Airways says it has been recruiting female pilots for more than 30 years and while the number of women pilots stands at just 6% of BA’s total, the airline claims that’s more than double the UK-average.
Fellow Heathrow-based airline, Virgin Atlantic has also been running what it calls a “future flyers programme” to encourage children to pursue a career in aviation. The airline has set up flight simulators in its check-in area at Heathrow Airport so children can try their hand at flying with the help and encouragement of Virgin Atlantic crew.
It’s great to see airline’s facing up to the challenge of encouraging underrepresented minorities to pursue a career as a pilot. The efforts are very much welcome but with sky-high training costs still a huge barrier for many hopefuls, one has to wonder whether airline’s could still do more.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.