British Airways has warned of an “unspecified” number of pilots who will be made redundant because of the unprecedented crisis being caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, the airline’s chief executive Alex Cruz warned staff that there “would be job losses” as the airline parks more planes like never before and some groups of employees have already been served notice.
But a lot has changed in the last week and it’s now becoming clear that the crisis facing the airline industry – especially in Europe which has been classed by the World Health Organisation as the epicentre of the pandemic – won’t last for just a couple of weeks or even months.
Yesterday, BA’s parent company said it would cut capacity across its group by 75 per cent through to the end of May but even that statement was made before the European Union decided to effectively shut down its air space to passenger aircraft for 30-days starting at noon on March 18.
Reacting to the news, the head of the British Airlines Pilots Associations (BALPA) said it would be “shocking news to those pilots who will be told that they are in a potential redundancy situation.”
In general, airlines are trying to avoid making pilots and cabin crew, as well as other customer facing staff redundant, so that they can quickly scale up operations as soon as the crisis is over or travel restrictions are lifted.
“While we do not underestimate the magnitude of the problem facing BA and other airlines we are extremely disappointed that a company like BA with a strong balance sheet and cash reserves has rushed into redundancy consultation,” commented Brian Strutton, BALPA’s general secretary.
“This is the biggest crisis the aviation industry has faced in decades, and without more government support, we fear the impact will be far greater,” he continued.
However, Strutton said pilots should be “reassured” that the airline has agreed to work with the union to avoid the need for “compulsory” redundancies. Further measures are expected to be announced by British Airways in the coming days.
In contrast to the approach currently being taken by BA, pilots at American Airlines will be offered three options to reduce costs but avoid redundancies. Pilots at the Dallas Forth Worth-based airline can choose to take an unpaid leave of absence of up to 12-months or a paid short-term leave of absence of up to six months with guaranteed pay of 55-flying hours.
Finally, American will offer early retirement for pilots who are 62 or older – they’ll be paid for 50 hours of flying per month until the mandatory retirement age of 65.
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.