Coronavirus: British Airways reportedly sacks 350 pilots

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British Airways planes parked at Gatwick Airport in Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images
British Airways planes parked at Gatwick Airport in Sussex. Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/PA Images

British Airways, owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group  (IAG.L), has reportedly laid off 350 pilots and placed 300 others in a “pool” for re-hire “when needed.”

The Sun on Sunday reported that the deal between BA and pilot union The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) is still waiting to be finalised but is a “relief” for the airline, after fears of strikes.

“Constructive talks are ongoing with BALPA to save as many jobs as possible,” British Airways told Yahoo Finance UK.

This comes shortly after BA announced plans to cut 12,000 jobs and implement pay cuts for 36,000, after experiencing its steepest ever downturn in 2020 as a result of COVID-19.

Planes were grounded in March by lockdown measures in an attempt to curb the pandemic.

BALPA succeeded in preventing BA from implementing a “last in, first out” policy that would mean workers hired most recently would lose their jobs first.

BALPA did not immediately respond to Yahoo Finance UK’s request for comment.

Captains and first officers placed in the pool do not currently have an aircraft to operate on and will remain on half-pay until they are needed again, the report said.

Other crew members will take a 15% pay hit, only getting 7.5% back when “pooled” pilots return — up to two years later, insiders told The Sun. The rest of their pay cut will be permanently lost.

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According to The Sun’s report, the majority of pilots being pooled will be Boeing 747 jumbo jet first officers, and the aircraft, which was a part of BA’s fleet for half a century, will likely be grounded forever.

Most of the cockpit crew facing redundancy worked from BA’s London Gatwick (LGW) hub. The airline has admitted it may not return to Gatwick after the coronavirus pandemic.

In an memo to staff on 30 April, managing director Adam Carson wrote: “As you know, we suspended our Gatwick flying schedule at the start of April and there is no certainty as to when or if these services can or will return.”

Gatwick’s chief Stewart Wingate has appealed to BA, as well as Virgin Atlantic, which announced it was permanently closing operations at LGW a week later.

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A decision to pull out of the airport would have an “enormous” impact on Gatwick and the people of Crawley, Wingate said.

The upcoming financial year is expected to be tough for airlines, with Gatwick warning it could take “years” for demand for air travel to return to 2019 levels.

Ryanair recently told Irish pilots they may lose their jobs and bases may have to close if they don’t accept a 20% pay cut.