Coronavirus: ‘BA to furlough 36,000 staff’

As many as 36,000 British Airways staff are set to be furloughed after the coronavirus pandemic forced the grounding of most flights.

A deal is reported to have been reached with the Unite union covering up to 80% of the workforce.

Those affected are expected to receive some of their wages through the government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, which covers 80% of salary capped at a maximum of £2,500 a month

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They include cabin crew, ground staff, engineers and those working at its head office near Heathrow, but no staff are expected to be made redundant.

The decision will affect all staff at Gatwick and London City after the airline suspended its operations at both airports until the crisis is over.

The carrier has been negotiating with the Unite union for more than a week.

The two sides have reached a broad deal but are yet to sign on some details, according to the BBC.

A spokesman for the airline would only say that “talks continue”.

BA has already reached a separate deal with its pilots who will take a 50% pay cut over two months.

Many staff at Virgin Atlantic have had their jobs suspended for two months and crews at easyJet are out of work for three months.

BA has been running government repatriation flights this week to get hundreds of British nationals home from Peru, after the country went into lockdown.

It is one of several UK-based airlines that has agreed to run further rescue flights in the coming weeks as hundreds of thousands of people are still stuck in other parts of the world.

Parent company, International Airlines Group (IAG), is in a better financial position than some of its competitors. The group has made healthy profits in recent years.

But the airline’s expected decision to suspend such a large number of workers gives a sense of how hard UK aviation has been hit by travel restrictions, designed to stem the spread of the pandemic.

With future bookings cancelled for the foreseeable future, airlines have been haemorrhaging cash.

Iata has warned that airlines could incur losses of almost $40 billion over the next three months.

The airline trade association said carriers were burning through their cash reserves fast, mainly because of the multi-billion-pound cost of refunding tickets for cancelled flights.

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