British Airways has presented a new pay deal for long-serving cabin crew who, in some cases, faced pay cuts of more than 50 per cent as part of plans to slash terms and conditions. The airline is looking to make around 12,000 employees redundant, including a third cabin crew because of the “devastation” that the Corona crisis is wreaking upon the aviation industry. Those who remain will be expected to sign new contracts or face being made redundant.
After a fierce backlash from the cabin crew union Unite and a slew of lawmakers who labelled the airline a “national disgrace”, British Airways has now put forward an alternative contract for longer-serving cabin crew which would give them “a soft landing into a new aviation industry”.
At the core of the proposal is a guarantee that basic pay won’t drop by more than 20 per cent of what cabin crew are earning today. British Airways currently employ three types of cabin crew – the pay protection deal would only apply to so-called ‘Worldwide’ and ‘Eurofleet’ crew who joined the airline before 2010.
“This pay protection proposal provides a ‘soft landing’ into a new aviation industry that’s very different to what any of us have known in the past, and enables you to adjust to the changes we need to make if we are to compete effectively and be fit for the a different future,” a leaked memo outlining the deal explained.
British Airways cabin crew fleets explained
British Airways is rather unique in that it has three different ‘fleets’ of cabin crew working from its London Heathrow hub:
- Worldwide cabin crew – only work long-haul flights and joined the airline prior to 2010
- Eurofleet cabin crew – as the name suggests, only work short-haul flights around Europe and again joined the airline before 2010
- Mixed Fleet cabin crew – Created in 2010 and cabin crew work both short-haul and long-haul flights
Mixed Fleet was created as a solution to a bitter industrial dispute between the airline and its legacy cabin crew. As a result, Mixed Fleet crew earn significantly less than their legacy colleagues and never work with other fleets.
British Airways is now proposing combining all three fleets in one as part of its response to the Corona crisis. Originally, the airline wanted all crew to earn the same pay but has slightly amended those proposals after pushback from unions.
“I know that there is still a significant impact under this proposal,” wrote Amy James, the airline’s head of inflight customer experience.
“But this is a crucial way for us to reduce redundancies and protect as many jobs as possible. By taking these difficult steps now, we can work together to survive this crisis and compete in a new industry, longer term.”
The pay protection only applies to basic pay and not allowances and ad diem payments which have traditionally made up the bulk of wages for many cabin crew. British Airways did not provide a breakdown of how much wages could actually drop for longer serving cabin crew in real terms.
For new ‘Mixed Fleet’ crew who joined the airline after 2010, a slightly improved package has also been presented. British Airways estimates that many crew would earn up to £28,000 per year under the proposals which include a combination of basic pay, ad diem payments, performance-related bonus payments and a “flex allowance”.
Originally, British Airways had proposed paying cabin crew a maximum of £24,000 per year.
“None of this is easy,” James wrote in the leaked memo. “But I hope you agree that this proposal offers a positive, permanent outcome to an impossible situation”.
The Unite union, however, doesn’t want a permanent solution to what it believes is a temporary problem. So far, the union has refused to enter into negotiations but is calling on British Airways to put forward alternative proposals like temporary pay cuts and short-time working.
Alex Cruz recently told staff that the airline would release alternative solutions as part of a deal to “mitigate, reduce and avoid” as many redundancies as possible. Those plans have not yet been released.
On Wednesday night, Lufthansa reached a deal with cabin crew unions to avoid forced lay-off’s, while Air France is seeking voluntary redundancies as it attempts to reduce its headcount. Finnair will not make any of its cabin crew redundant but many will be placed on unpaid leave until passenger demand picks up.
British Airways pilots continue negotiations to hammer out a voluntary severance package, although Brian Strutton of the BALPA union said those talks “hang by a thread”. A similar scheme had been put forward for long-serving cabin crew.
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.