British Airways is set to cut around 30 percent of its workforce consisting of 42,000 people, the airline said, as the coronavirus continues to make air travel an unsustainable industry for the time being.
The company said it would be cutting as many as 12,000 jobs. British Airways said a return to 2019 levels of activity would likely take several years.
Alex Cruz, the company’s chief executive, said in an email that he wanted to act immediately because the forecast for the already-downtrodden aviation industry has only worsened in recent days. People are staying home more due to the coronavirus, and safety guidelines dictate that air travel is generally irresponsible during these times.
Cruz, in a letter seen by Financial Times, said the move was essentially unpreventable — with no bailout seeming to be on the horizon, and with the company not wanting to expect the taxpayers to foot the bill, there was no other choice, he said.
“Any money we borrow now will only be short-term and will not address the longer-term challenges we face,” he said, adding that the fact that no one knows when all the borders will reopen further darkened matters.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak said in March that he would consider offering support as a last resort, after all commercial ventures like raising capital had been thoroughly exhausted.
Brian Strutton, a secretary at pilot union BALPA, did not accept the job losses and said it would fight for all of them. Strutton said the announcement was a “bolt out of the blue from an airline that said it was wealthy enough to weather the COVID-19 storm and declined any government support.”
British Airways’ dire move is reflective of what many European airlines have seen happening — a shift away from optimism toward a quick recovery from the pandemic.
Scandinavian airline SAS has said it plans to cut half of its workforce permanently, and Germany’s Lufthansa is thinking about filing for creditor protection. Norwegian Air Shuttle said most of its fleet is probably not going to see the air for the remainder of this year, adding that a full recovery likely would not be seen until 2022.