Airlines that made most job cuts were hit hardest by cancellations

Airlines that have been cancelling the most flights recently are the ones that cut the most jobs during the pandemic, MPs have heard.

Oliver Richardson, national officer for civil aviation at the Unite union, said the “league tables” of cancellations “almost exactly correspond” correlate with those airlines that made the most redundancies and most significant changes to terms and conditions and those that did not.

He was speaking to MPs at a special session of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee which was investigating the flight cancellations and staff shortages that have plagued the industry as it has emerged from the restrictions of Covid.

Richardson said that Ryanair, which made no redundancies, was in a “different position from the likes of BA [British Airways]”, which went through its “fire and rehire” process. BA lost 10,000 staff through redundancies and changed its terms and conditions, making it a less attractive proposition to new recruits, he said.

Labour MP Darren Jones, chair of the committee, repeatedly questioned BA’s chief corporate affairs and sustainability director Lisa Tremble about the issue and why it is cancelling about 100 flights a day.

He asked her: “You’re having the worst experience because you sacked the most staff, using very aggressive tactics. Do you think that is true or not?”

Tremble said that the company “had to protect as many jobs as possible” and had made decisions in 2020 because it was in a “precarious situation” – losing £20 million a day, with no vaccine in sight and no certainty about furlough being extended.

Sophie Dekkers, easyJet chief commercial officer, made an apology for the cancellations the budget airline has been making.

She said about 2,000 staff had been given voluntary redundancy – 1,400 of whom were in the UK, and the rest were in Europe. Pilots were offered part-time roles instead of redundancy.

She explained to MPs that the “key challenge” was a delay in getting ID checks and references for new recruits, which is now taking about 14 weeks instead of the 10-week period seen before the pandemic.

“We have today 142 crew ready, trained to go online that don’t have their ID passes,” she said.

“The ID process has caught us by surprise and it’s taken longer than we had ever planned or anticipated.”

David Burling (pictured), chief executive for markets and airlines at Tui, said the company did not make pilots or crew redundant but it has got 1,400 crew in the security clearing process.

He told MPs he hoped this would be sorted by the end of June.

Burling said the main issue for Tui had been the first weekend of the May half-term holiday, caused initially by severe weather in Crete which meant staff were stranded and there were no spare aircraft.

Broadcaster Simon Calder told the committee that BA has made 114 cancellations today (Tuesday) but most were cancelled three weeks before departure. Meanwhile, easyJet has made 55 cancellations.

He said Ryanair and Jet2 have made “the odd” cancellation due to normal events and were doing a “good job”.

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