British Airways Threatens To Dismiss All Pilots And Rehire On Individual Contracts

British Airways has threatened to dismiss all of its pilots in a row over redundancies with its union. The airline said today that it could consider firing its 4,300 pilots only to rehire some again on less than desirable contracts in the future. British Airways announced that it is experiencing one of the worst periods in its history as the pandemic decimates travel demand.

BA head on
British Airways has warned it could dismiss some 4,300 pilots if agreements with BALPA cannot be reached. Photo: Getty Images

BA could fire 4,300 pilots

In a heated discussion with the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), British Airways said that it could fire the entirety of its pilot base amid disagreements on redundancies. The airline is facing one of the worst episodes in its history and seeks to dismiss some 1,130 pilots among other staff.

It’s been in talks with BALPA over the number of pilots it employs. BA hopes to be able to reduce this figure to weather the impact of the coronavirus. BALPA has been steadily working on an agreement for BA pilots. However, British Airways has now shared concerns that it will need to dismiss a further 125 pilots to continue its operations.

It’s a decision that does not sit well with BALPA. However, British Airways feels pressured to cut costs where it can if it is to restart operations in July. It warned that all 4,300 pilots could lose their jobs, with some being rehired on individual contracts. A spokesperson for the airline confirmed that no final decisions had been made, however, legal consultation is due to cease on July 18th.

Pilots on A350 BA
The BALPA says that BA’s comments have undermined the strength of the talks. Photo: British Airways

BALPA questions BA’s handling of the situation

British Airways has received criticism over its handling of the situation. The General Secretary for BALPA Brian Strutton said that the airline had acted unprofessionally. In a statement shared with the BBC, he said,

“I’m appalled at the cavalier attitude shown by BA towards the Balpa reps and to its pilots. This has seriously undermined our talks, which now hang by a thread.”

British Airways backed up its claims saying it was only taking the necessary action to protect as many jobs as possible. Like many airlines, the coronavirus has caused quite a stir for routine operations.

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British Airways wants to protect jobs but the current climate makes it difficult. Photo: Getty Images

In a statement to Simple Flying, British Airways said,

​“We are acting now to protect as many jobs possible. The airline industry is facing the deepest structural change in its history, as well as facing a severely weakened global economy. We call on Unite and GMB to consult with us on our proposals as our pilot union, BALPA, is doing. Working together we can protect more jobs as we prepare for a new future.”

In a statement to Parliament, the CEO of IAG Willie Walsh said that BA’s comment to dismiss 4,300 pilots has been misinterpreted. Instead, he said discussions needed to be made over BA’s restructuring.

British Airways is looking to make some 12,000 of its 42,000 strong workforce redundant after jettisoning cash due to the pandemic. Despite that, its post-COVID-19 strategy has also not been helped by UK government guidelines.

BA staff
As many as 12,000 could lose their jobs in BA’s restructuring. Photo: British Airways

Airlines lobby to change UK government regulation

As of tomorrow (June 8th), the UK will begin quarantining all travelers who enter for 14 days. The measure is part of the government’s plans to curb the transmission of the coronavirus from external sources.

However, some of those affected by this decision are less than impressed. BA is one of a few airlines who has written to the government’s senior legal officer asking for leniency over the rules. Ryanair and easyJet have both also appealed the government’s decision in the interest of getting travelers back in the sky.

easyJet and Ryanair
easyJet has joined British Airways and Ryanair in writing to the UK government. Photo: Getty Images

The fear is that many will choose not to fly to the UK if they must spend two weeks of their time in isolation. Furthermore, the government’s decision will likely affect UK residents who choose to fly abroad since returning home means they must also quarantine for 14 days.

At this stage, there is no suggestion that BA will make good on its warning; however, the situation does display just how desperately airlines are struggling.