British Airways is facing the potential for a “summer of discontent” and chief executive Sean Doyle must “go beyond well-meaning words” if he is to fix the mess, warns a cabin crew union that represents the vast majority of flight attendants at the cancellation-prone airline.
The carrier has nixed thousands of flights from its schedule over the summer to cope with post-pandemic staff shortages and Doyle has embarked on a major shakeup of key management figures in an attempt to fix problems at the beleaguered airline.
In a scathing memo sent to cabin crew on Thursday, the BASSA union said: “Let’s face it, no crystal ball is needed to see that things are not going well at British Airways.”
Until now, Doyle has enjoyed broad support from cabin crew but patience appears to be wearing thin already.
“Vital staff are missing everywhere, and the customer experience is not what it was or should be, as the airline’s recovery is hampered by both staff and product shortages combined with endless IT failures.”
“It would be easier to feel sympathy (for British Airways) if all of these were not self-inflicted but they were,” the memo continues.
In recent days, BA’s head of customer experience has been replaced after Tom Stevens stepped down from the role after just one year, while the head of IT has also been replaced and chief operations officer Jason Mahoney has had his remit reduced.
The BASSA union blames huge pandemic job losses enacted by ousted former CEO Alex Cruz for many of the problems now facing the airline.
“How management got it so wrong is a mystery but they did. Passengers have come flooding back but we simply no longer have the resources to carry them,” the memo continues.
The union says “painfully slow” recruitment is the result of low pay that is failing to attract candidates. British Airways says it has had plenty of interest in cabin crew jobs but security vetting processes are holding back recruitment.
The airline has, however, admitted that it is struggling to find enough job hunters for a swathe of ‘below wing’ ground-based jobs.
“Sean Doyle is undoubtedly trying to change things for the better but that must go beyond well-meaning words, into well-meaning and visible actions,” the memo warns.
BASSA says it has already asked for a pay rise scheduled for later this year to be brought forward and wants an earlier review of pay rates due to the developing cost of living crisis.
The union has also complained that “significant elements” of a negotiated contract between the airline and cabin crew that sets out working conditions haven’t yet been introduced and that excuses for the delays are “wearing rather thin”.
A system of tax-free allowances has also come under fire with the union claiming that cabin crew can’t afford to buy food in certain high-cost destinations.
Earlier this year, the union which represents check-in staff, gate agents and other ground-based frontline workers warned passengers of a “summer of chaos”.
“Moral is at an all-time low after BA’s shameful attack on workers during the pandemic,” the GMB union told Doyle in an open letter back in February.
In recent weeks, the airline has started to train office-based middle managers as cabin crew, check-in staff and baggage handlers in the event of future ‘disruption’.
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.