British Airways is preparing to jettison its multimillion-dollar art collection as it scrambles to stay aloft amid ongoing coronavirus restrictions and a sharp economic downturn, according to a London newspaper.
Sotheby’s is working with the beleaguered airline to value its collection of art, which features mainly British artists, reports the Evening Standard.
British Airway’s collection includes pieces by Damien Hirst and Peter Doig, with at least one of the works valued at over $1 million. Some of the paintings have been on display in the airline’s executive lounges for three to four decades, noted the newspaper.
The airline is looking to auction off at least 10 paintings — at a time when demand for air travel has collapsed, with contentious negotiations with unions over plans to cut 12,000 jobs. Executives at the struggling carrier have also announced plans to sell or do leasebacks of its jets in a bid to raise another several hundred million dollars.
The money raised by the art auction will not likely amount to even a molecule in a bucket given the scale of British Airway’s financial challenges, but it comes with the airline facing a public relations crisis, with strong resistance to its planned cuts by both union leaders and members of Parliament.
British Airways is not alone, with airlines across the world are taking a beating, with losses of $84.3 billion this year, according to the International Air Transport Association.
The airline has gone from 300 flights a day out of London’s Heathrow airport to just a handful, noted Alex Cruz, British Airways chairman and CEO, in a statement released as the global coronavirus lockdown took flight this spring.
“Our very limited flying schedule means that revenues are not coming into our business,” Cruz said at the time, adding efforts to conserve cash and renegotiate deals “alone are not enough.”