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British Airways Cabin Crew ‘Struggling’ as Passengers Flock Back But Staffing Levels Are Slashed

British Airways Cabin Crew ‘Struggling’ as Passengers Flock Back But Staffing Levels Are Slashed

Cabin crew at British Airways say they are “struggling” to cope after the United States reopened to British and European tourists and passengers came flooding back. British Airways reported a huge surge in new bookings following President Biden’s decision to finally drop a pandemic travel ban but onboard staffing levels have not been returned to pre-pandemic levels.

The BASSA cabin crew union says it is receiving around 100 emails a day from exhausted cabin crew who are at the end of their tether over the inadequate staffing levels.

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At the start of the pandemic, British Airways slashed onboard crew numbers in line with minimum legally required levels based on the plummeting demand for air travel. But with many aircraft now being filled to maximum passenger capacity, staffing levels haven’t been increased to match.

The problem has been made worse by the fact that, like many other airlines, British Airways has returned its onboard service to something much more resembling pre-pandemic levels.

British Airways could be keeping crew numbers down in order to save costs but the airline is also facing a staffing crunch and is desperately trying to hire new crew members and recall crew who either resigned or took extended periods of unpaid leave at the height of the pandemic.

The Heathrow-based carrier appears to have been taken off-guard by the sudden surge in travel demand despite warnings from U.S.-based airlines that suffered similar staffing issues earlier this year.

British Airways is currently trying to recruit as many as 3,000 cabin crew but training courses won’t be ready to start until early next year and the first recruits won’t have graduated from training school until March 2022 at the earliest.

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Photo Credit: British Airways

Not that long ago, BA had feared a major overstaffing situation over the winter months and had warned crew and other staffers to brace themselves to be stood down for several months.

According to the crew union, however, British Airways may not be fully aware of how bad the situation has got on some flights. While crew members are firing off emails to the union in the hundreds, little feedback is actually making it directly to airline managers.

Crew members have now been encouraged to vent their feeling in official feedback in an attempt to get staffing cuts reversed.

Last week, the union that represents flight attendants at American Airlines complained about the carrier’s reticence to return staffing levels to pre-pandemic levels. The Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA) complained it was becoming impossible to provide a premium service with reduce crew numbers.

“Our Flight Attendants take pride in delivering a premium product to our customers. Management appears only to be concerned with lowering labor costs with no regard to the impact of staffing reductions on our Flight Attendants,” the union wrote in an internal memo.

“Based on the reports we have already received, the workload has become unreasonable and unrealistic for one person to effectively complete service to the level that our customers expect,” the memo continued.

Like other airlines, however, American Airlines is desperate to claw back huge pandemic losses and is keen to keep staffing costs as low as possible for as long as possible.

View Comments (7)
  • Thank god BASSA is trying to sort it out and they are now accepting applications from the former MixedFleet cabin crew fleet. The Mixed Fleet Unite union have been absolutely pathetic throughout the pandemic and it appears members are abandoning them in droves.

    • I needed help with my roster and when I called the mfu reps they were really rude and said they couldn’t help me. My friend had already joined bassa so I called them and they told me if I transferred to them they would help. So I did which was really easy and within a few hours they had flights removed from my roster they were really nice and soooo helpful.

  • This explains the incapability of British Airways for running flights. They have cancelled a lot many flights in December due to their ill managed staff retention programme.

  • “The Heathrow-based carrier appears to have been taken off-guard”
    Sean Doyle hasn’t been taken off guard. What he might not have counted on was that the middle management he charged
    with certain tasks had no idea what they were doing or how to do it.

    “British Airways may not be fully aware of how bad the situation has got on some flights”
    Absolute rubbish. They know exactly what the conditions are on board. How do I know? Because I work there
    and I see the feedback.

    “Crew members have now been encouraged to vent their feeling in official feedback in an attempt to get staffing cuts reversed”
    The Reality Check survey has not got anything to do with staffing levels but there is a free-text feedback option towards
    the end of the survey. Definitely some people may have used that space to mention this but there are so many things
    wrong with IFCE (the department for which cabin crew fall under) that are probably higher on the list. The atmosphere in regards to management-crew is putrid.

    With regard to Union, it is unfathomable why the airline is goading and tormenting crew the way they are. Management is nowhere to be seen and the union is more or less the first point of contact for even the smallest thing.

  • As with any component of the (so called) service industry, and in this instance the airline industry and in particular BA, my concern with this article is the fact it doesn’t mention the Crew to passenger ratio.

    If by some chance BA is not meeting the standards required for the safety of passengers onboard their flights, it will only be a matter of time before BA is faced with an incident which will leave them open to even more problems and headaches in the form of lawsuits and litigation.

    At this point, I will presume the author of the article failed to point out the fact BA is meeting the standards required internationally for Crew to passenger ratio while focusing on whether or not Flight Attendants are able to meet the inflight service levels they are familiar with in the past.

    Unfortunately, as with many service industries post-pandemic, they may find it will be a rather long time before they ever manage to reach those levels again – if ever.

    In the meantime, we can only hope and perhaps for those of us who will, pray the traveling public will manage to maintain a civil and courteous manner toward Flight Attendants not only at BA but airlines in general.

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