Coronavirus: British Airways threatens to fire all pilots in latest salvo

British Airways aircraft are seen at an airport in Britain.
British Airways aircraft are seen at an airport in Britain.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - British Airways warned its pilots union that it would dismiss all of the company's 4,300 pilots and rehire them on individual contracts unless the union reached an agreement with the carrier.

The airline, which is negotiating a planned reduction of 1,130 roles represented by the Balpa union, sought another 125 pilot jobs on Wednesday, the union said in an email.

"This has seriously undermined our talks which now hang by a thread," Brian Strutton, the general secretary of the union, said in an email.

"It calls into question whether BA is even capable of conducting industrial relations properly and whether anything they say can be trusted."

A spokesman for the airline, which is working on cutting 12,000 jobs across the company, said in an email it's "acting now to protect as many jobs possible," adding that "the airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy."

Like airlines worldwide, British Airways parent IAG is slashing costs to contend with a historic drop in travel.

Carriers in Europe have signalled plans to eliminate more than 50,000 positions since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, including 10,000 on Wednesday at Germany's Deutsche Lufthansa.

In a letter to employees seen by Bloomberg, British Airways chief executive officer Alex Cruz said the carrier group was burning through £178 million (S$300 million) a week without any revenue coming in, forcing it to preserve cash.

He also wrote that debt taken on would have to be repaid over a short term, so sales that are generated following a return to flying are swallowed up.


The carrier is also concerned thatBritain's 14-day self-isolation plan for incoming flyers, due to begin Monday, would delay their plans to restart services in July.