British Airways ‘fighting for survival,’ warns boss

Flagship carrier British Airways is burning through £20 million a day and running only a third of normal services, according to its CEO. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 17 September 2020

British Airways ‘fighting for survival,’ warns boss

  • BA has already laid off 13,000 staff and renegotiated the contracts of many of its remaining employees

LONDON: British Airways is having to take every measure possible to make it through the winter because a fear of flying during the pandemic has destroyed any hope of a rapid return to normality, its boss said on Wednesday.

BA CEO Alex Cruz told a parliamentary select committee that the airline was running at 25 to 30 percent of its normal flight schedule, prompting it to cut thousands of jobs because “fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them.”

“This is the worst crisis that British Airways has gone through in its 100 years of history,” he said. “We’re still fighting for our own survival.

“We are taking every measure possible to make sure we can actually make it through this winter. We do not see a short-term coming back of our passengers. All the feedback we get ... is still pointing at a slow recovery process.”

Britain’s leading airline has been heavily criticized by politicians and unions for laying off 13,000 staff and renegotiating the contracts of many of its remaining employees.

The airline says it has no choice, because it is burning through £20 million a day and straining the finances of parent company IAG which is in the process of raising €2.74 billion from shareholders.

Cruz has cut his own pay by around a third.

UK-based airlines have benefited from government employment retention schemes and loans, but have not had the kind of industry-specific support deployed in France and Germany to bail out Air France-KLM and Lufthansa.

Cruz said a return to flying had been hampered by the weekly changes to quarantine rules and the lack of a testing system at airports. A two-stage testing system, where passengers are tested on arrival and five days later could remove the need for 14-day quarantines, he said.

“We remain worried with regards to the evolution of the rest of the winter season. People are still afraid of traveling and we are having weekly changes to the quarantine list, we don’t have a testing solution yet.


Airline passengers want to see barriers to boost confidence — industry execs

Updated 26 min 1 sec ago

Airline passengers want to see barriers to boost confidence — industry execs

  • Other pandemic-related trends could include more private business class seating on narrowbody planes
  • Passengers say they do not all trust industry assurances about high air quality onboard

SYDNEY: Airline passengers want visible plastic barriers in the cabin to reinstill confidence in flying during the pandemic, saying they do not all trust industry assurances about high air quality onboard, aviation industry executives said on Thursday.
Other pandemic-related trends could include more private business class seating on narrowbody planes, adding touchless lavatory features and permanent conversions of passenger planes to freighters, according to a panel at the MRO Asia-Pacific conference held online.
Embraer SA is studying reusable and disposable plastic barriers for its regional jets, but challenges include making sure they are lightweight, not flammable and do not affect aircraft cleaning and evacuation, said Lais Port Antunes, a business development manager in the planemaker’s Asia-Pacific division.
“Modern aircraft are already equipped with excellent technology to filter the air,” she said. “The passengers should feel safe in an aircraft cabin, but they need to see actions.”
Tan Hean Seng, a senior executive at Singapore Technologies Engineering Ltd, said airline customers, fearing cost increases, did not seem interested putting fewer seats in economy class. But, he added, the airline still needed to reassure them about risk.
“Having a shield between the seats, the passengers may feel safer, especially during mealtimes when passengers take off masks and there is potential contamination,” Tan said, adding his company had developed a prototype.
In business class, airlines are already expressing more interest in lie-flat seating options as they look to use narrowbody planes on longer routes, Boeing Co. Vice President of Specialty Products and Services Kate Schaefer said.
“There is an awful lot of interest in those premium passengers in having a pod-type solution,” she said. “There is going to be a lot of interest in pods, doors and staggered seating.”