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British Airways boss defends virus-induced job losses

16 Sep 2020 / 23:26 H.

LONDON: British Airways (BA) chief executive Alex Cruz (pix) on Wednesday defended heavy job cuts at the airline after coronavirus decimated demand, declaring that customers were "still afraid of travelling".

Cruz was appearing at parliament's transport select committee one week after BA parent group IAG announced it would slash more flights because of Covid-19 pandemic restrictions and quarantine rules.

"Covid has devastated our business, our sector. We're still fighting for our own survival," Cruz told lawmakers on the committee. Last week we flew 187,000 passengers in and out of the UK. Same week the previous year (it was) under one million."

He said British Airways is operating around a quarter of its normal schedule, adding that "fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them".

In response to the global health emergency, IAG embarked upon a massive jobs-slashing efficiency drive, in line with carriers like Air Canada, American Airlines and Lufthansa.

British Airways is currently in the process of axing 13,000 jobs or about one third of its workforce.

"As CEO of British Airways, I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act incredibly fast," Cruz said on Wednesday. "I deeply, deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why MPs are concerned."

He added: "This is an impossible situation. I am completely dedicated and focused on protecting those nearly 30,000 jobs of all those BA colleagues who will remain within the business.

"People are still afraid of travelling ... We don't see a short term coming-back of our passengers."

IAG forecasts that it will take until at least 2023 for passenger demand to recover to pre-pandemic levels.

BA pilots had meanwhile voted in July to accept a package including job and pay cuts aimed at avoiding even more redundancies.

Cruz revealed Wednesday that non-pilot unions representing other workers have also reached agreements with the airline, adding that no new contracts would be issued.

The group last week raised €2.74 billion (RM13.44 billion) to help it navigate through the Covid-19 crisis. – AFP

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