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!!!”