By Edward Thicknesse, cityam.com
The chief executive of British Airways has said that the airline is still “battling for its own survival” as travel disruption due to the coronavirus pandemic drags on.
Speaking to the Transport Select Committee this morning, Alex Cruz said that the carrier was burning through £20m a day because of the downturn.
However, he did say that BA had achieved a breakthrough in its talks with unions over its massive job cuts programme and had taken the controversial “fire and rehire” option off the table.
The UK’s flag carrier had come in for fierce criticism over the hardline tactics, with lawmakers branding the airline a “national disgrace”.
Giving evidence to MPs today, Cruz said that with passenger numbers still at basement levels, the airline would have to take drastic action over the unprofitable winter period.
Last week BA flew just 180,000 people, compared to a little under 1m for the same week last year. It is currently operating between 25 and 30 per cent of its flights.
“This is the worst crisis that BA has gone through in its 100 years of history,” Cruz 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.”
‘Fire and rehire’ off the table
Since announcing their restructuring programme back in June, BA has been dogged by criticism over its attempts to give staff set to stay with the firm new contracts.
However, Cruz sprang a surprise this morning when he revealed that BA had decided not to pursue the option.
“There will be no need to issue new contracts”, he told the committee.
Chairman Huw Merriman, who had previously been extremely critical of the move, said that the change of position was “very welcome”. Cruz added that he regretted that “it had taken so long to sit down with the other unions”.
Thus far, 7,200 people have left the company, out of a possible 13,000. Cruz said the final figure could well be closer to 10,000. But, he warned, “I must protect BA at all costs at this time”.
City A.M. has contacted Unite and GMB for comment.
Last week Cruz was among a number of prominent airline bosses to call for the government to implement an airport testing regime to get around its current quarantine restrictions.
In a letter to the Prime Minister, bosses suggested that the government should also roll out a London to New York trial travel corridor in order to get business moving again.
Cruz backed up the demands today, suggesting that the transatlantic route be used to trial a system of testing on arrival and then again five days later”.
“The UK is in a position where it can actively test and do more things to help the economy”, he said.
He also said that the government should make the current list of approved countries more consistent to bring back customer confidence.