• British Airways CEO warned of imminent layoffs
  • Unions representing airline workers have asked the UK government for a bailout
  • British Airways earns almost $1.2 billion annually on its New York to London flight


U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to add the U.K. and Ireland to a 30-day travel ban, effective Monday, has imposed even more pressure upon an already beleaguered British Airways.

“We’re assessing the impact of new U.S. government restrictions announced today on travel from Ireland and the U.K. to the United States,” British Airways stated. “We will communicate directly with affected guests as soon as possible. All travel before [May 31] can be changed to a later date and/or destination. No change fees apply. A fare difference may apply.”

British Airways, which is owned by International Airlines Group, has already cancelled thousands of flights to various countries worst hit by the coronavirus, including Italy (until at least Apr. 4) and China (until Apr. 18).

Under the new travel restrictions, American citizens and green card holders will be allowed to fly to the U.S. from U.K. or Ireland but only to 13 mandated airports. They will also be subjected to rigorous health screenings and quarantines.

Late last week (before Trump’s U.K. ban), British Airways’ CEO Alex Cruz warned employees that the airlines’ very survival was at stake and that many jobs will undoubtedly be lost.

Cruz said coronavirus was “a crisis of global proportions like no other we have known” and that layoffs were imminent.

"We can no longer sustain our current level of employment and jobs would be lost -- perhaps for a short term, perhaps longer term," Cruz said.

Cruz further warned that British Airways will ground many aircraft “in a way we never have before.”

“Please do not underestimate the seriousness of this for our company,” he added.

British Airways reportedly earns almost $1.2 billion annually just on its New York to London flight alone.

British Airways also announced that customers who have reserved flights between March 14 and May 31 can cancel their booking and receive a voucher at the same value.

“Vouchers are valid for 12 months and can be used to any destination,” British Airways stated. “Your voucher can be used as part payment towards a future booking to any destination. It must be redeemed for travel on flights taken within 12 months of your original date of departure.”

The British Airline Pilots' Association, or BALPA, which represents U.K. pilots, called for the British government to save the airline industry.

“Summer booking are significantly down, and as a result, airlines are scaling back operations and asking employees to take unpaid leave, freezing pay and considering redundancies,” BALPA stated.

“There is a danger that this pandemic will leave U.K. aviation in pieces. Airlines need the Government to step in now,” said BALPA’s General Secretary Brian Strutton. “The reality is, with such a loss in forward bookings for the summer -- the time when airlines make all their profit -- the airlines have had to look at ways to save money to keep the companies afloat. While these measures may help the airlines save some money in the short term, the long term effects of losing such a significant part of their workforce means that when the situation has passed, they may not be able to scale back up quickly enough. Pilots require frequent training… to be able to fly, it’s not as simple as just re-employing people or raising hours back up.”

The British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association, or BASSA, a branch of UNITE the Union, which represents tens of thousands of workers in U.K. and Ireland, also asked the U.K. government for help.

“The aviation industry has been rocked by coronavirus, with flight cancellations and the grounding of flights which is severely impacting on airports,” BASSA stated. “Without the government’s help, the aviation industry could plunge into an unprecedented crisis, with thousands of jobs under threat. It needs government funding now, to be able to manage through what will effectively be a period of dormancy during the next difficult period.”

British Airways has approximately 45,000 employees, including 16,500 cabin crew and 3,900 pilots.

Unite assistant general secretary Diana Holland, declared: “The government must act decisively and act now, so that when the coronavirus crisis ends there will still be a U.K. aviation industry. Up and down the U.K. Unite is working with airlines, airports and the supply chain, to preserve jobs and companies for the future and it is essential that the government plays its part. The challenges faced by the U.K. aviation industry at this moment are entirely unprecedented and all solutions to support the sector must be fully considered.”