BA announces plans to sack 1,100 pilots and may quit Gatwick

British Airways

British Airways could leave Gatwick, the country’s second largest airport where it is the second biggest operator, as it emerged that it is to sack 1,100 of its pilots on statutory redundancy terms only.

Following the shock decision of the airline to cut 12,000 of its 45,000 staff because of the financial impact of the coronavirus, details of BA’s plans post-Covid-19 have begun to emerge.

In a leaked memo to its staff operating out of Gatwick, where it accounts for about one sixth of the 44 million passengers annually, BA management said of future services from the airport: “There is no certainty as to when or if these services can or will return.” Gatwick is a secondary, or overspill, operation to BA’s main hub services at Heathrow, Europe’s busiest airport, where the airline accounts for more than half of all flights.

BA is part of IAG, which also owns Iberia and Vueling, the Spanish airlines, and Aer Lingus, the Irish carrier.

It has also been revealed in another leaked memo that BA wants to get rid of 1,130 of its 4,300 pilots, a little over a quarter of flight crew and in line with the proportion of staff it is aiming to cut across cabin crew, engineers and support staff.

Balpa, the pilots’ union, which is already incandescent at the plan, will be further enraged by a letter from BA, saying it will be prohibitively expensive to go through a voluntary redundancy programme and that it instead aims to offer only statutory terms.

BA pilots, who can earn more than £100,000 a year, have typically worked for the airline for an average of 15 years and might expect to be offered enhanced redundancy terms reflecting their years of service. Such long-serving flight crew could receive just a few weeks’ pay in the BA plan.

Last year BA carried 47 million passengers. It has been sharply criticised in recent years for the poor quality of its service. None of the other airlines in the IAG group has yet started laying off workers.