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British Airways Has Already Started to Lay Off Staff to “Protect Cash Position” in Coronavirus Fight

British Airways Has Already Started to Lay Off Staff to “Protect Cash Position” in Coronavirus Fight

To be frank, given the changing circumstances, we can no longer sustain our current level of employment and jobs will be lost,” wrote Alex Cruz, the chief executive of British Airways in an internal memo sent to staffers yesterday and leaked soon after. Cruz warned some jobs would be lost for a “short period”… others for longer. But what he didn’t say is that jobs have already been lost.

Sources claim the airline was actively recruiting check-in agents and cabin crew right up until the end of last week. Some new hire training courses had also started within the last week and others were due to start on Friday.

Photo Credit: British Airways

But as the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak spreads further than anyone in the aviation industry could possibly have imagined, airlines have been caught off guard.

Cabin crew and some ground staff currently undergoing training at BA’s ‘Global Learning Academy’ have been told there is no longer a job for them. It’s not clear whether they may be offered a job in the future… if and when the situation improves.

All recruitment has been frozen and some new hire cabin crew have been told they’ll be kept in a ‘holding pool’ for at least the next 12-months. It’s a similar situation as to what happened at the German flag-carrier Lufthansa which suspended training and withdrew job offers from new hires undergoing training a couple of weeks ago.

Photo Credit: Lufthansa

Cruz warns that the airline will be “suspending routes and will be parking aircraft in a way that we have never had to before.” While that warning will clearly have a major impact on pilots, cabin crew and airport ground staff, it’s more unclear as to where the job cuts will be made.

When consumer confidence improves and travel demand starts to rise again, British Airways like every other carrier will need to quickly scale up their operations again. Which means they’ll need to turn on the tap of frontline employees.

It’s likely that large swathes of the workforce in nearly every airline will be asked to take unpaid leave or temporarily laid off in the coming weeks. How long they’re expected to go without pay, however, is anyone guess right now.


What are other airlines doing?

Finnair

Finnair has already halted all recruitment and is working with unions to introduce enforced unpaid leave. The airline was hit hard by the reduction in demand to Asia and has now been stopped from flying to the United States and India.

Lufthansa

Lufthansa has also stopped recruitment and withdrawn job offers from some staffers who were still in training. The airline is in talks with the German government to Kurzarbeit or short-time working in which the government will pick up some of the lost wages of crew put on leave.

Norwegian

Norwegian said it would temporarily lay-off at least 50 per cent of its entire workforce across all departments. The airline said that number may well increase.

Cathay Pacific

The Hong Kong-based airline has been asking all staff to take up to three weeks of unpaid leave. However, the airline concedes that the now global pandemic is affecting demand even further. Additional cost-cutting measures may be needed in the coming days and weeks.

Delta Air Lines

Ed Bastian, chief executive of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines pleaded with staffers to take voluntary unpaid leave in an open letter to employees yesterday. Bastian said he too would be foregoing all pay for the next six months. The airline has also halted all recruitment and will significantly reduce the use of contractors.

Emirates

Emirates has asked certain staff in various departments to take up to a month of unpaid leave at a time. In the last couple of days, the airline halted all cabin crew recruitment as the Coronavirus-impact took hold more widely.

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