Coronavirus: British Airways slashes jobs with 12,000 staff at risk

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
12,000 BA workers' jobs are at risk. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

Thousands of workers at British Airways (BA) could face redundancy as the airline slashes jobs in a bid to stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis.

The airline’s owner, International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L), announced on Tuesday that as many as 12,000 BA workers could be made redundant as a result of the collapse in demand for air travel.

BA’s website says the company employs around 45,000 staff, suggesting the cuts could see a quarter of its entire workforce lose their jobs. It says it employs around 16,500 cabin crew and 3,900 pilots, though the latest update did not detail which staff would be affected.

The sector has seen revenue plummet as demand for flights has nosedived and some governments have curbed air travel altogether, sparking a wave of cost-cutting measures. BA’s parent company warned a hoped-for recovery in travel could take “several years.”

BA had previously announced that more than 22,000 workers had been furloughed as part of the UK job retention scheme, taking paid leave through a government subsidy for their wages.

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IAG said its passenger capacity in April and May had fallen by 94% compared to last year, with only flights for essential travel and repatriation continuing to operate.

IAG said in a statement on Tuesday: “In light of the impact of COVID-19 on current operations and the expectation that the recovery of passenger demand to 2019 levels will take several years, British Airways is formally notifying its trade unions about a proposed restructuring and redundancy programme.

“The proposals remain subject to consultation but it is likely that they will affect most of British Airways' employees and may result in the redundancy of up to 12,000 of them.”

The announcement came in IAG’s first quarter results, published shortly after 5pm in London on Tuesday (28 April). IAG said its total revenue had slumped by 13% to €5.3bn ($5.7bn, £4.6bn) compared to a year earlier.

It swung into losses in the first quarter, with its operating profit, excluding ‘exceptional’ items, down from €135 million last year to a loss of €535 million. The company also said it would not provide profit guidance for 2020, but said it expected its operating loss in the second quarter to be significantly worse than the first quarter.