British Airways chairman and CEO Alex Cruz appeared by video link in front
of Parliament’s Transport Select Committee this morning to update MPs on the
airline’s plans to make up to 13,000 staff redundant, telling the committee
that the pandemic is “the worst crisis in BA’s 100-year history”.
BA flew around 187,000 passengers last week, equating to
about 25 to 30 per cent of its normal capacity compared to last year, according to Cruz. It reported
a loss of £711 million in the second quarter and Cruz said it was burning
through cash at a rate of around £20 million a day.
Cruz added that BA does not see a “short-term coming back of
our customers” because “people are still afraid of travelling”. He said demand is
also being hampered by the UK government’s weekly changes to its list of travel
corridors, the lack of a testing regime for travel and the continuation of the
country’s high level of Air Passenger Duty, which he claimed is “damaging to
“There is no data to support that this is a temporary effect
for the airline industry. All the data and all the information we have… point
towards one thing: things have changed. The airline industry is fundamentally
“Please do not lose sight that this is not something that is
just going to go away. The impact of this pandemic is something that is going
to be with us for many years.”
Recalling the impact of the financial crisis of 2007-2008,
Cruz said it took around four years for passenger traffic to recover and that
the number of business travellers choosing premium cabins “never recovered”. He
said BA believes the post-pandemic recovery will be a very long one that will cause
“fundamental structural changes” to the make-up of its passengers and demand.
“Fewer passengers mean fewer flights, and fewer flights mean
fewer people required to service them,” Cruz said. “As CEO of British Airways,
I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act
incredibly fast, and I deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking
colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why MPs
“This is an impossible situation. We are having to make
incredibly difficult decisions as a result of this pandemic, and it is really
only because of Covid-19 that we have had to go through deep restructuring.”
When asked for an estimate of how many redundancies will be
necessary, Cruz said a realistic figure is “probably around 10,000” but warned
that number could change as BA continues negotiations with staff unions to
mitigate the impact.
So far, around 7,200 employees have left the business.
He said the airline has already reached an agreement with
BALPA and has recently been in negotiations with non-pilot unions, with several
different deals agreed in principle that either have been or soon will be put
to a ballot. He added that the widely-reported ‘fire-and-rehire’ strategy
initially taken by the carrier is now ‘off the table’, although cabin crew are
still facing pay cuts of up to 15 per cent under their current contracts.
Cruz himself has taken a 33 per cent salary reduction, while
all management-level employees took pay cuts of between 5 and 20 per cent.
However, Howard Beckett, assistant general secretary of the
Unite union, claims Cruz’s statement was “misleading” and “needs to be
corrected”. “MPs and the select committee need to be aware that Alex Cruz’s
comments to the committee earlier were not entirely correct. This is a very
important matter and we would not wish MPs and the select committee to get the
“To be clear, the fire and rehire threat still hangs over
some BA workers. If Alex Cruz wishes to take this opportunity to say that he is
removing this threat from our members, then Unite is more than ready to talk.
“Draft agreements with British Airways will not be finalised
by Unite until members have voted on them and agreed to changes in their
contracts. Even if agreements are reached and finalised in all of British
Airways’ sectors, this does not herald industrial peace. Any changes in
contracts should have been of a temporary nature and once British Airways
returns to profit, the cuts in pay and conditions should be immediately restored.”
Cruz told the committee that BA’s negotiations with unions
have included provisions on how the airline can restore some of the pay and
conditions should the airline return to profitability. “That’s something we’ll
have to examine once we actually get to that point.”