British Airways sees progress in jobs restructure talks with unions

British Airways

British Airways has made what it calls “significant progress” in talks with unions over plans to restructure its business.

In a letter sent to staff Álex Cruz, chief executive, said that the airline had signed an agreement in principle over the future of parts of its workforce.

Speaking of the negotiations with the GMB and Unite unions, Mr Cruz, 54, said: “I am pleased to report we have made significant progress with both unions which will help us save jobs and mitigate the impact of redundancies.”

The carrier, which has been hit hard by the slump in the aviation sector that followed widespread lockdowns and the grounding of flights, is cutting up to 12,000 jobs, almost a third of its workforce. The deal does not apply to cabin crew, but covers engineers and staff at Heathrow.

British Airways is part of International Consolidated Airlines Group, which also includes Iberia and Aer Lingus, and is based at Heathrow, west of London, Europe’s largest air travel hub. Yesterday it emerged that airlines are struggling to fill their flights from Heathrow, according to figures that cover the airport’s first month back in operation after the relaxation of lockdown.

Heathrow said that 867,000 passengers had passed through its terminals in July, down 88.8 per cent on the same month last year. Air traffic fell by 71.7 per cent, partially flattered by the advent of freighters flying into an airport that is normally too congested to handle cargo flights. Last year Heathrow handled 80 million passengers.

The airport reopened for business at the start of July, but many routes remain closed and others face quarantine restrictions. Although the July numbers are skewed by air freight services, they show that the 55,000 passengers who flew on domestic flights did so at an average number of 75 per aircraft, compared with 121 a year ago. On flights to and from the European Union, with 482,000 passengers in total, the average number of people per flight was 88, compared with 143 a year ago. On transatlantic services, which remain all but grounded, the figures show that the 70,000 passengers who flew did so at an average of 38 people a flight. A year ago that number was 245.

John Holland-Kaye, 55, the airport’s chief executive, said: “The government can save jobs by introducing testing to cut quarantine from higher-risk countries, while keeping the public safe from a second wave of Covid-19.”

The 16.3 million people who flew in the first seven months represented a decline of 65 per cent from the 46.5 million in the same period in 2019.

The airport said: “More than half of the passengers [in the month] ventured to European destinations to make the most of the 2020 summer season, quarantine-free.” But it added: “The vast majority of Heathrow’s route network — 60 per cent — remains grounded.”