UK Considers Revoking British Airways Heathrow Slots After BA Cuts Flight Attendant Pay Up To 50%

British Airways knows it is going to be a smaller airline going forward. Around the world airlines are looking to shed staff. They may be offering voluntary buy outs, or letting go of their more junior employees. British Airways is taking a different approach.

They are laying off all of their cabin crew and then they’re offering to re-hire about 70% of them. This isn’t a furlough. This is firing everyone and starting from scratch. The new employment offer in many cases will be more as little as half what flight attendants have been making.

Coming out of their 2010 flight attendants strike, British Airways has had three separate flight attendant groups that do not work the same flights together. British Airways is using the crisis to accomplish a goal they’ve had since agreeing to these ‘B-scale wages’ a decade ago, combining everyone into the same work group… at lower pay.

Even if the airline needs fewer employees and even if you think they ought to be able to offer whatever terms employees will voluntarily accept, the U.K. government shouldn’t be subsidizing it.

  • Their entire engine of profitability is a gift from the British government, the 51% of takeoffs and landings at the most lucrative congested airport in the world.

  • That privilege was largely granted to them, for free, by the government (a small portion of slots were acquired from other airlines, like british midland, which had acquired theirs free from the U.K. government).

The slots gift amounts to corporate socialism. BA itself was formed by the U.K. government, under the auspices of the Civil Aviation Act of 1971, combining BOAC and British European Airways. It received government protection from competition, with the U.K. refusing to allow competing scheduled flights by other British carriers (British Caledonian was forced to drop New York – London and Los Angeles – London as well as East African routes.) The carrier was privatized in 1987 under the Thatcher government.

When first reporting on this I suggested that if BA pursues this position then the British government should take back all of its slots at Heathrow and auction them off for a 10 year period.

  • Clearly BA is no longer pretending to use the slots for the public good.
  • The slots should go to the highest bidder, not continue to be a gift from the British people.

It turns out my suggestion received some fairly broad distribution, and a clip was passed on to me with thanks where Parliament’s Transportation Committee chair suggests revisiting BA’s Heathrow slots.

I genuinely appreciated the note that the idea came from this blog, and that “on behalf of…the thousands of [flight attendants]… THANK YOU!!!”

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. This is just unacceptable. Inhumane. Barbaric, callous.

    Frequent flyer here outside Covid 19 times. If this happens, they cannot ever expect a penny from me again. Anyone with kindness and social justice in their heart will likely give this airline a wide berth instead of paying towards bad corporate citizenship. I have done well in my career by always paying more than the going rate. Good for my employees, my company, and my conscience.

  2. Good job Gary to awaken Parliament. What’s good for the goose is certainly good for the gander.

    BA’s pathetic action smells like how the U.S. legacy carriers have also taken that corporate subsidy mentality of “what’s mine is mine; what’s yours is mine.” How many times have our U.S. carriers believed they could sell landing slots and gates paid for by the taxpayer or muni bonds?

    BA should have remedied long ago its failure to negotiate a fair deal with the higher paid class of FAs. Now its ineptness in labor relations will even be seen by the Tories; forcing the Tory government to act decisively. People work hard to move-up to acquire improved pay and benefits; not to attain that senior level just to be smacked down for a situation not in their control.

    Perhaps BA discarded its sense of fair play and representing democracy personified by the UK when the lion was wrongly removed from the tail of its planes. BA should bring back the lion and the pride it instilled.

  3. The British government might have more of a leg to stand on if they’d drop this quarantine ridiculousness. If there’s a quarantine, BA won’t be flying anywhere (thus, no money coming in).

  4. Not often I’ve said this about a Tory, but that’s an excellent speech by the MP and a smart tactic. BA’s actions are outrageous.

  5. Blah Blah Blah. . .IAG has too much strength and Branson is hated by the establishment so BA isn’t losing any slots. This is just saber rattling.

  6. It should also be noted that this alleged British Airline “Flag Carrier” is a Spanish Company, shares in which are sold in Euros and run by an Irishman and a Spaniard, whose main airport where they dominate the slots, is also owned and run by a Spanish Company. So exactly which Flag are all these entities actually carrying? Britain runs a free market, preferably for those that are not British!

  7. Corporate socialism…. Interesting.

    Did United pay for every slot at Newark? American at JFK? Delta at Atlanta? Curious.

  8. Outrageous how a British carrier is treating its staff when the rest of the country is pulling together to go through the storm. They should be stripped from the flag and their management go to Court and answer for their crimes against their loyal workers. Yes

  9. If British Airways is allowed to get away with this it will be a very dangerous precedent. All companies will use covid19 as cover to decimate employee contracts. Even those with billions in the bank like BA. What there doing is to ALL employees. Crew, ground crew, office staff all will be made redundant. BA is just about numbers not loyalty to staff or customers. Trust me safety will be compromised by there actions

  10. @Oh! Matron! –

    1. Newark is not a slot controlled airport. Neither is Atlanta. (Gate leases are a separate issue, not granted free but written in ways that lock out competition – and a big deal in the U.S. where airports are government owned and run)

    2. US corporate socialism doesn’t make the same practices in the UK not that.

  11. @Oh! Matron!

    Sure, except the only slot restricted US airports are JFK, LGA, and DCA.

    Certainly an amusing history to trace how airlines ended up with their current slots. For example, AA got 24 slots at JFK from B6 in a trade for DCA slots as part of the US/AA merger. In building it’s DCA fortress, US had gotten slots from DL in exchange for slots at LGA.

  12. Hi,
    I was medically retired by BA in 2000 part of my package after 21 years service was staff travel for life. Before you get upset about you can travel the world let me explain. It’s 10% of the full fare so from Toronto to Lhr was 250 pounds for an empty seat if you can get on at all. Well after the 2009 Cabin crew strike BA took my travel away on the grounds it’s a perk!!! I tried to fight but had no chance of course. This is another example of their blatant disregard for values and integrity.

  13. What worries me is the effect on safety. Rember the terrible trident 3 tragedy on take off from Heathrow? If I recall correctly, it crashed due to bad industrial feeling on the flight deck.?

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