British Airways is set to axe up to 12,000 jobs from its 42,000-strong workforce due to a collapse in demand caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Parent company, IAG, which also owns Spanish airline Iberia and Ireland’s Aer Lingus, said it would need to impose a “restructuring and redundancy programme” until demand for air travel returns to 2019 levels.

A statement by IAG read: “The proposals remain subject to consultation, but it is likely that they will affect most of British Airways’ employees and may result in the redundancy of up to 12,000 of them.”

“We must take action now” – Cruz

BA chief executive Alex Cruz wrote in a letter to staff: “In the last few weeks, the outlook for the aviation industry has worsened further and we must take action now. We are a strong, well-managed business that has faced into, and overcome, many crises in our hundred-year history.

“We must overcome this crisis ourselves, too. There is no government bailout standing by for BA and we cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely… We will see some airlines go out of business.”

IAG, along with a number of other global airlines, said it would take several years for air travel to return to pre-virus levels.

Unions express their “devastation” with cuts

Unions representing BA’s workers have expressed dismay and “devastation” over the cuts and have pledged to fight the losses.

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said: “This announcement will be felt as the stab in the back it undoubtedly is by the close-knit BA family. We say to BA’s boss, Alex Cruz, that this is a heartless decision in a time of national crisis.”

“With the majority of BA’s workers on furlough, we would have expected him to work with both us and the Government to honour the spirit of the Government’s job retention scheme. Governments across Europe, in Spain, Germany and France are working with trade unions and airlines to rebuild the industry, keeping people in work while the sector recovers.”

“To reject government support but then expect their own staff to pay the cost of such a misjudgment is irresponsible, dangerous and destructive and is utterly at odds with the mood of the country at a time of crisis. This workforce has worked tirelessly, heroically and unnoticed throughout this crisis, in dangerous circumstances on the global transport front line. They simply do not deserve to be treated as a commodity to be disposed of in this way.”

12,000 losses is a “staggering number” – GMB

GMB national officer Nadine Houghton added: “We believed we had reached some relative, albeit temporary, respite for our members following the agreement to furlough 80 per cent of BA’s staff.”

“I know our reps will work day and night to limit the impact on our members but 12,000 employees is a staggering number. All our efforts will be put into bringing that number down.”

Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union BALPA, said its members were “devastated” by the announcement: “This has come as a bolt out of the blue from an airline that said it was wealthy enough to weather the COVID-19 storm and declined any Government support.”

“BALPA does not accept that a case has been made for these job losses and we will be fighting to save every single one.”

About 4,500 pilots and 16,000 cabin crew work for BA.

In the first three months of 2020 IAG revenues fell 13 per cent to £4bn and the Group’s chief financial officer Stephen Gunning warned worse was yet to come.