British Airways is in talks with its union about a plan to suspend about 32,000 staff so it can survive the coronavirus pandemic, a person familiar with the situation has told the Reuters news agency.
The United Kingdom’s flag carrier has massively reduced flights and warned it will need to slash costs further if it is to survive an emergency that has battered the global aviation industry.
“The deal is not done yet,” the source said, adding that the talks were focusing on approximately 80 percent of the workforce excluding pilots.
Owned by International Airlines Group, British Airways has already suspended flights from the UK’s second-busiest airport, Gatwick, and London’s City Airport. Its parent company has said flying capacity would be down 75 percent in April and May.
It has been in talks with the Unite union for a week to agree to a plan that will enable it to suspend staff including cabin crew, ground staff, engineers and those in head office without having to make them redundant.
It has already agreed on new terms with its pilots where they will take two weeks’ unpaid leave in April and May.
With planes unable to fly because of travel restrictions, compounded by a plunge in demand due to fears of contagion, airlines worldwide have grounded most of their fleets, and many have said they need government support to survive.
Data firm OAG said the aviation industry was less than half the size it was in mid-January, just before countries started confirming coronavirus cases outside China.
The UK has launched a job retention scheme which covers 80 percent of someone’s salary capped at a maximum of 2,500 pounds ($3,105) a month but rival Virgin Atlantic said it would need additional financial help to avoid going bust.
Rival airline easyJet on Monday said it had grounded its entire fleet.