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British Airways Chief Executive Provides Outlook on Sector Recovery
British Airways Chief Executive Officer Alex Cruz spoke to the U.K. parliament’s transport committee on Wednesday after being summoned to comment on the sector’s recovery plan following the impact of COVID-19 as well as to respond to allegations regarding staffing. This came after the airline executed mass layoffs and changes in employees’ contract conditions affecting more than 12,000 staff.
Speaking in parliament, Cruz took time to comment on the sector’s slow recovery, pointing out to the lack of a coherent strategy from the government to catalyze a travel rebound. In this sense, the chief executive criticized the government’s current quarantine policy requiring those arriving from certain countries to self-isolate for 14 days upon their arrival to the U.K. He also commented on the fact that the constant update of the list with very short notice is putting people off travel.
According to The Independent, Britain’s flag carrier is using less than 25% of its available slots this week and has transported five times fewer passengers than the same week last year. As the list of countries requiring quarantine upon arrival to the UK continues to lengthen — with nations such as Portugal, France and the Netherlands joining the list — fewer people will be able to efficiently travel to the U.K.
Instead, Cruz insisted that airport testing would provide a more effective mechanism to keep contagion rates low while still facilitating the resumption of air travel within and from the country.
Speaking about staffing plans, Cruz commented, “As CEO of British Airways, I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act incredibly fast. I deeply, deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why [members of parliament] are concerned.”
As the airline “struggles for survival,” as said by Cruz, he defended his position on the layoffs that have been executed, alleging that the airline needs to be the right size to compete in a much smaller flying landscape. The executive also highlighted positive negotiations regarding redundancies, pay and contract conditions with its unions.
Though the latter had previously accused Cruz of planning a fire-and-rehire scheme, according to the Evening Standard — which would seek to fire more staff than the airline would need to and then hire them back under lower pay and worse working conditions — British Airways’ boss reiterated that with agreements coming, there would be no need to get to such an extreme extent and instead said that he expects a final agreement with unions to be reached before the end of the week.
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