The new boss of British Airways has been urged to start a new era of constructive relations with staff and unions following the departure of Alex Cruz.

Incoming chief executive Sean Doyle, who moves from fellow International Airlines Group carrier Aer Lingus, should withdraw a controversial ‘fire and rehire’ approach to the coronavirus crisis employed under his predecessor.

The call came from the Unite union at a time when the IAG chief Luis Gallego admitted the group was confronted by “the worst crisis faced in our industry”.

Cruz faced criticism from MPs and unions over plans to cut 12,000 jobs at BA due to the collapse in international travel, with threats to fire and rehire remaining staff. The Commons transport committee described the airline’s treatment of employees as a “national disgrace”.

The outgoing head of BA also came under attack for a dispute with pilots last autumn and replacing free in-flight meals with paid for menus on short-haul flights as part of cost cutting measures. The airline also suffered a high profile IT failure over the May 2017 bank holiday weekend and a mass data breach the following year.

Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett said: “It’s unsurprising that Alex Cruz has suddenly left British Airways. The handling of industrial relations through this crisis has been unnecessarily confrontational.

“The harsh reality is that BA’s fire and rehire policy, exposed by Unite, caused untold and unnecessary misery to thousands of loyal employees.”

Such industrial practices has seen the reputation of BA damaged on an international scale, Beckett claimed.

“We hope that the incoming CEO Sean Doyle will begin a new chapter of constructive relations with staff and unions, repair the reputation of the airline and boost the morale of staff. Unite stands ready to work with the new CEO,” he added.

“At this moment of crisis it is vitally important there is complete transparency on the terms on which Mr Cruz will be leaving British Airways and that these are the same as the thousands of staff who have left through redundancy.”

Unite national officer for civil aviation Oliver Richardson said: “Although this change clearly represents a new chapter for British Airways, there is still uncertainty and the continuing threat of ‘fire and rehire’ hanging over a number of BA employees.

“These threats should be removed in order to allow for a constructive approach to the challenges faced to be found.”

Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, said: “I hope this heralds a new dawn which sees BA behaving like the proud flag carrier airline it should be.

“Mr Cruz has been in the departure lounge for some time. He was given a remit to cut costs and found it impossible to do that without alienating BA passengers and employees alike.”

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