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British Airways to Lay-Off Staff as Airline Fights for “Survival” Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

British Airways to Lay-Off Staff as Airline Fights for “Survival” Amidst Coronavirus Outbreak

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British Airways has told its employees that there “will be job losses” in an internal memo sent by the airline’s chief executive Alex Cruz that was titled “survival of British Airways”. Cruz is said to have written that while the airline and its parent company IAG were in a financially strong position to weather the unprecedented storm caused by the Coronavirus outbreak redundancies would need to be made.

According to several sources, the memo to BA’s 45,000 employees said the current crisis was worse than 9/11, the SARS epidemic and the 2008 financial crisis. Cruz reportedly told staff that more aircraft would be grounded as the situation develops and despite IAG’s “robust” balance sheet the entire company was under “immense pressure”

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Photo Credit: British Airways

Commentators on the popular FlyerTalk forum, who claim to have seen the email, described it as “tone-deaf” and “insensitive”. Cruz tells staff that the airline is “taking decisive steps to protect our cash position” but he faces criticism for not taking a pay-cut himself.

Other airline leaders, including the likes of Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce, have already announced plans to forego all pay until June, after announcing a compulsory unpaid leave scheme for staff.

“It is a crisis of global proportions like no other we have known. Please do not underestimate the seriousness of this for our company,”

Alex Cruz

Last week, British Airways reportedly started to ask staff, including the airline’s 16,000 cabin crew, to take unpaid leave or to go onto part-time working but the situation appears to have developed significantly since then.

Cruz told staffers that job could be lost “perhaps for a short period, perhaps longer-term”.

Yesterday, British Airways narrowly avoided having its operations to the United States shut down after President Trump ordered a travel ban on 26 European countries in what is known as the “Schengen zone”. The United Kingdom is not part of the Schengen zone and has so far seen far few COVID-19 cases than many of its closest neighbours.

Nonetheless, like most airlines, British Airways has seen a massive slump in forward bookings and has been forced to cancel flights to a number of countries, including Italy and Kuwait. Flights to India may also be impacted after the country cancelled the majority of foreign visas and more travel bans may follow in the coming days and weeks.

Airlines around the world are enforcing unpaid leave or temporary layoffs. In Europe, the likes of Lufthansa, Finnair and Norwegian have all confirmed they will make compulsory temporary layoffs because of the rapidly deteriorating position.

Yesterday, the director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Alexandre de Juniac called on governments to start providing financial assistance to airlines saying that many would require a “lifeline” or go under in the coming weeks

British Airways confirmed that an email had been sent by Alex Cruz but did not comment on the contents of that email.

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