The current coronavirus pandemic has taken every industry by storm – be it education, e-commerce, healthcare, or immigration. The Foreign Office has already advised against all non-essential foreign travel and current immigration procedures are halted especially those that require any type of face-to-face communication. Non-UK citizens whose British Citizenship is due or those who are looking to get their spouse visa extended are confused and waiting for further instructions by the FCO.
Due to travel bans and border closures, everybody prefers to stay at home and the travel industry has suffered greatly due to these restrictions and lockdown measures. Airline traffic is descending at an alarming rate which points to tens of thousands of airline workers being at risk.
All major airlines are already adapting by asking staff to take unpaid leave. While the present job cuts are believed to be temporary, many companies have already halted further hiring, which would obviously curb any airline’s potential to fill positions they need once the current pandemic is over.
British Airways is planning to cut over 30% of its workforce and, according to its owner, will take several years to recover. IAG, its parent company, has advised introducing a restructuring and redundancy programme.
According to Alex Cruz, Chief Executive of British Airways, “In the last few weeks, the outlook for the aviation industry has worsened further and we must take action now.”
This warning came as a major setback for other airlines who are expecting and desperately hoping for a return to routine traffic.
The international aviation industry has literally come to a dead-end in the past few months as countries all over the world have enforced strict lockdowns and travel bans. Noticeably, British Airways suspended more than 22,600 employees in April.
According to Cruz, “There is no Government bailout standing by for BA and we cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely. Any money we borrow now will only be short-term and will not address the longer-term challenges we will face.”
Also, International Airlines Group last Tuesday confirmed that more than 12,000 employees will lose their jobs subject to discussion with trade unions. It is noteworthy that IAG stock has substantially declined by 65% so far this year.
P to acknowledge this aid include American, United, Southwest, and Delta Airlines.
Cathay Pacific has requested its workers to sign up for 21 days of unpaid leave. As a matter of interest, this airline had already been subjected to the Hong Kong protests held last year.
According to the airline, “Preserving cash is the key to protecting our business. To achieve this, we have been taking multiple measures.”
Emirates is another popular Dubai-based airline entirely dependent on international travel to generate revenue. This airline has also asked employees to take one-month unpaid leave.
The airline clearly stated in one of its statements that “The knock-on effect of these operational changes has resulted in more resources than required in certain areas of the business for our day to day requirements,”
Emirates is determined to protect the rights of its workers and confine the impact of the current crisis but will encourage workers to take voluntary unpaid leave for a month.
JetBlue and United Airlines have also announced changes in their policies because of low travel demand and both these airlines will adjust their staffing plans.
Lufthansa has also announced a 50% decline in its capacity and said the airline is consulting with trade unions to ascertain ways that could help them avoid layoffs.
EasyJet has also laid off its cabin crew for 2 months. Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic, has also appealed to the UK Government to help rescue his airline. Air Canada has also put its 15,200 workers on leave and Norwegian Air has also clearly stated that the airline could run out of funds by May.
As far as labor resistance is concerned, British Airways is now consulting with labor groups to decide permanent cutoffs. Currently, BA employees through BALPA (their Trade Union) have expressed their disappointment to these moves.
According to Brian Strutton, General Secretary of BALPA, “We do not accept that a case has been made for these job losses and we will be fighting to save every single one.”
International airline losses from the crisis have climbed to a massive $314 billion. However, British Airways can utilize its financial reserves and also benefit from the furlough programme introduced by the UK Government to support its workers.
It is obviously too early to predict when countries will lift travel bans and under what specific conditions people will be able to access air travel again. IAG, however, has clearly indicated it expects the airline industry to look different in the future.
Whether you have any upcoming travel plans or you are waiting for your bail hearing or to file an appeal against a court decision, we would suggest you halt your activities and stay at home to keep yourself and others safe in this uncertain situation.