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Parent Company of British Airways Says it Will Review July Restart Date after UK Government Proposes Mandatory Quarantines

Parent Company of British Airways Says it Will Review July Restart Date after UK Government Proposes Mandatory Quarantines

British Airways Makes Major U-Turn On Approach to Striking Cabin Crew

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of the parent company that owns British Airways and Iberia, says the airline group will now have to review plans to restart a “meaningful” flight schedule in July after Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested it would soon be time to impose a mandatory 14-day home quarantine on anyone arriving in the United Kingdom by air during a televised address to the nation.

Despite having the highest COVID-19 death toll in Europe and the second highest fatality rate in the world, the British government now believes quaruntining new arrivals would help stem the spread of the novel Coronavirus. Johnson provided few details on the plans, leaving airlines with more questions than answers.

Willie Walsh pictured far left. Photo Credit: OneWorld

Airlines UK, an industry trade body that represents British Airways and easyJet amongst other airlines, said the decision “effectively international travel” and during an appearance in front of a parliamentary hearing on transport, Walsh said “there was nothing positive” in Johnson’s speech and that a quarantine order would only make the “most significant crisis the (airline) industry has faced” even worse.

Walsh appeared before the committee hearing via video link to answer questions about the impact COVID-19 is having on the industry and in particular about plans by British Airways to lay-off 12,000 employees. Lawmakers grilled Walsh over rumours that BA and IAG were effectively shunning government aid in order to force through cost-cutting measures, including a long-held ambition to dispose of ‘legacy’ staff contracts.

In response to one question, Walsh said IAG was “not picking on British Airways” and that the decision “was based solely on the downturn”. While British Airways contributes the lions share of profits to the IAG group, it also had the highest costs including staff he explained.

While claiming that IAG would do everything possible to “secure as many jobs as possible,” Walsh said the airline would need to make tough decision now. “Our capacity is going to be significantly lower in 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023,” Walsh explained.

As for suggestions that IAG was refusing a bailout in order to see the demise of Virgin Atlantic, Walsh denied the speculation calling it “absolute rubbish”. Instead, he referred to the carrier as a “badly run, badly managed” airline.

British Airways made the shock redundancy announcement last week and is seeking to conclude the lay-offs by June 15. Unions have accused the airline of “smash and grab” opportunism and have refused to engage with the airline. The Unite union has mounted a legal case to stop the redundancy process in its tracks but the courts have yet to rule on the matter.

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