British Airways furloughs 36,000 staff in worst-ever crisis

Three months ago, British Airways and its staff were beginning what was expected to be their most successful-ever year.

Today BA, in common with the rest of the airline industry, is on life-support as scheduled flying reaches a near-standstill.

A combination of international flight bans, national lockdowns and passenger concerns about coronavirus have created the biggest crisis in modern aviation history. In response, British Airways is to suspend 36,000 employees.

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The move affects four out of five of BA’s ground staff, engineers, office workers and cabin crew. They will be switched to the government’s job-retention scheme, which covers 80 per cent of salary up to a maximum of £30,000 annually.

A deal with the Unite union is about to be concluded, with no redundancies involved at this stage. The official British Airways statement consists of just two words: “Talks continue.”

Cabin crew comprise the largest group of workers affected by the furlough, with 16,500 employed by BA. Part of their pay is made up of allowances from flying, so many will lose more than 20 per cent of their income.

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) had previously negotiated a temporary pay cut and unpaid leave on behalf of BA’s 4,000 pilots. Their earnings, which are typically much more than £30,000 a year, will approximately halve.

Much of the British Airways fleet is grounded, and the airport bases at Gatwick and London City have shut down completely.

But unlike the UK’s other giant carrier, easyJet, BA is continuing to fly, with ​a skeleton service running to and from Heathrow airport.

On Thursday, short-haul flights are running to and from Aberdeen, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Belfast, Berlin, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Edinburgh, Frankfurt, Geneva, Glasgow, Gothenburg, Manchester, Munich, Oslo, Sofia and Stockholm.

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

1/20

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

Intercontinental services are departing from Heathrow to Boston, Dallas, Hong Kong, Mexico City, New York, Santiago, Seattle, Seoul, Sydney, Tokyo and Washington DC.

The critical question for all airline staff is: how many of them will be needed when passengers start flying again in significant numbers?

Earlier, Greg Foran, chief executive of Air New Zealand, said: “We expect in a year’s time, we will be at least 30 percent smaller than we are today.”

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