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British Airways uses redundancy threat to push all cabin crew into low-paid ‘Mixed Fleet’

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More information is coming to light about the British Airways cabin crew redundancy programme we covered on Wednesday.

There is a cunning plan which is designed to achieve what the airline has been seeking for many years – moving all Heathrow cabin crew onto a single (low wage) contract with just one fleet.

How are BA cabin crew structured at present?

Britihs Airways currently has three cabin crew fleets at Heathrow.  There is a legacy short-haul fleet, a legacy long-haul fleet and the new ‘Mixed Fleet’.

All new entrants since 2010 have been in ‘Mixed Fleet’.  These crew members fly a mix of long-haul and short-haul, are on very low salaries (around £13,000 per year plus allowances for new joiners) and are predominantly young.  They tend to work for the airline for a few years ‘to see the world’ before moving on to more settled and better paid work elsewhere.

The two legacy fleets – Eurofleet and Worldwide – comprise everyone who was hired before ‘Mixed Fleet’ was launched.  These are predominantly older and more experienced members of crew, often BA ‘lifers’, who are paid substantially more money than ‘Mixed Fleet’ and have better contract terms (eg longer layovers during flights).  Staff work exclusively on either long-haul or short-haul routes.  Many long-haul crew members live outside London because they will only do a handful of flights per month.

This article is not a discussion about the customer service merits of the three fleets, for clarity.  I am just outlining how the situation at Heathrow works.

British Airways cabin crew redundancies

As legacy crew members retire or leave, the roll of ‘Mixed Fleet’ expands.  Routes are taken away from the legacy fleets and given to ‘Mixed Fleet’.  However, whilst ‘Mixed Fleet’ is now a decade old, Eurofleet and Worldwide still have a majority at Heathrow.  The attractive contracts mean that attrition is relatively low and there are rules in place to stop legacy crews being given the least attractive routes.

The current staff numbers at Heathrow are:

Eurofleet: 1,853 (25% in senior roles)

Worldwide: 6,382 (25% in senior roles)

Mixed Fleet: 6,027 (14% in senior roles)

Total envisaged redundancies are 4,700.

In both cost and admin terms, running three separate fleets is not easy for British Airways.  At Heathrow, for example, the airline needs to keep multiple sets of standby crew available covering all three fleets.  There were undoubtedly plans sitting in a drawer on how to deal with this, and there will never be a better time to execute them.

Cabin crew have been emailed to say that the airline is looking to create a new, single cabin crew fleet at Heathrow.  All crew would fly a mix of short-haul and long-haul.  There would be a new simplified onboard supervisory structure (ie fewer senior roles).

This clearly won’t end well.

Members of Eurofleet would have to begin long-haul flying, which may not suit those with families or other responsibilities, as well as taking a substantial pay cut and potentially having their role downgraded 

Members of Worldwide would have to begin short-haul flying, which is impossible for those who do not live in the South East, as well as taking a substantial pay cut and potentially having their role downgraded

‘Mixed Fleet’ could potentially benefit as there may be some uplift in pay – you couldn’t cut Eurofleet or Worldwide pay fully down to the levels of ‘Mixed Fleet’

There is no guarantee that the cabin crew unions will support these moves, of course.  They will press for voluntary redundancies first, across both fleets.  Realistically, of course, with the airline running very few flights, what power do the unions have?  Even if all Eurofleet and Worldwide crew members went on strike, it would make no difference to British Airways who would be able to run their much-reduced schedules for the next few months without anyone even noticing.

Historically, the only thing that would have worked in favour of the crew is the sheer cost of redundancies for Eurofleet and Worldwide.  One legacy cabin crew member I know was offered £40,000 in the last round of voluntary redundancies, which she rejected.  Everyone in Eurofleet and Wordwide has AT LEAST 10 years British Airways service – except for a handful who came from BMI in 2012 – and is well paid.

However, as you can see here, from a letter sent to cabin crew by British Airways:

British Airways cabin crew redundancy

…… anyone made redundant now will only receive the legal minimum redundancy pay allowed.


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Comments (321)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Dave Winchester says:

    Have the BA exec team taken pay cuts or deferrals during the current crisis?

    • Lewis King says:

      Was googling this yesterday. Not that I can see…

    • John says:

      Outgoing IAG ring master Willie Walsh took 20% pay cut, and agreed to stay on a bit longer than planned (presumably, now, until he’s completed restructuring and IAG/BA has emerged from the pandemic in one piece).

      Not sure anybody else – including Alex Cruz – followed suit, but imagine they’ll have to give up something in the months ahead.

    • Rhys says:

      Cruz forewent his salary for (at least) two months

    • Lady London says:

      If BA exec takes a pay cut, what they wont say is yeah… a cut….pretty much to base pay only which is a fraction of their earnings.

      Miraculously their bonuses, share incentive perks, pension subsidies, expenses etc etc,will all kind of work out close enough to not much lost over 2-5 years, perhaps less.

  • BrightonReader says:

    BA will need to tread very carefully when selecting who to make redundant otherwise there could be lots and lots of employment tribunal claims on the grounds of age discrimination that could be hard to defend.

    • Shoestring says:

      Simple – just have a very defensible FIFO policy, nothing wrong with wanting to change blood & get new enthusiasm.

      • Adam says:

        A first-in, first-out process for redundancy would not be, as you described it, “very defensible”. It is a selection process that is very likely indirectly discriminatory on the basis of age and would lead to a barrage of (potentially incredibly expensive) discrimination claims. This will be tricky indeed for BA to implement.

        • Andrew says:

          Agree – especially as WW/Euro fleet cannot be under the age of 26 (or 28 if crew must be a minimum age of 18), whereas MF will have a substantial number of crew under 26/28.

      • Jay says:

        Good ol’ Arry…he helps with one comment and stirs up angst with another. You’ve got to laugh.

      • ChrisC says:

        You can’t make a whole load of people redundant just to bring in new blood.

        A post is made redundant because you don’t need people doing those jobs any more not because you just want to get rid of the current batch of people and bring in new ones.

        (BTW stop posting the misogynist comments. Some valid points you make are undermined when you call staff ‘grannies’ etc)

  • Catalan says:

    For Messrs Cruz and Walsh the Coronavirus crisis is a dream come true. An opportunity of a lifetime to rip up old contracts and start a new.
    Watch out though. Karma is a b***h!

    • Erico1875 says:

      Same for many firms.

      • The Savage Squirrel says:

        Although it can be used as an opportunity, as what else can you do (for example I used an enforced shutdown to build a new website for my business), I can promise you that any business that has been forced to pretty much close down but still pay fixed costs is NOT seeing this as a wonderful opportunity!

    • Simon says:

      I think that is too simplistic. Do your think they are enjoying watching their banshee sheet los millions every day? With no end in sight? I think they would have preferred life pre covid, despite having opportunities to streamline staff contracts.

  • BJ says:

    The rationale for restructuring was obvious, even without the current challenges facing the industry globally. However, BA really need to do something about the mixed fleet crew. £13,000 is a total disgrace; even way back in 1985 I was earning over £4,000 a year working part time in a warehouse during my undergraduate years. I know about the allowance etc before some start going on about those, despite them I think all employees are entitled to a fairer basic wage than this. Stories about Lufty going bust continue to persist to. Is it possible they might actually want to do so to enable the management to start afresh building a new carrier with much lower running costs and liabilities? If so, what’s stopping BA doing the same?

    • Shoestring says:

      Then you also know that the average Mixed Fleet pay is over £25K with extras. Let alone pension & NICs. Nobody is forcing them to apply for the job.

      • Erico1875 says:

        Putting food on the table forces them to apply for the job.

        • Shoestring says:

          They could apply for different jobs but waiting on table in a restaurant might pay the same but doesn’t give travel to interesting foreign locations, stopovers in good hotels for free and the Captain’s party drinks.

          • BJ says:

            Was quite surprised to see a lot of flight crew heading in to Ibis Sathorn last year….luxury can now be found in strange places 🙂

          • Secret Squirrel says:

            I think the terminology used “putting food on the table” Harry was positioned at earning money to feed the family & probably not waiting on tables in a restaurant.

      • BJ says:

        But can they count on the £25k, is it secure and unconditional? If it is then why not just make the basic salary £25k?

        • Shoestring says:

          As a Mixed Fleet Cabin Crew member, you will have the potential to earn, on average, a reward package of between £23,000 and £28,000 per annum. This includes a starting salary of £15,612 per annum.
          https://careers.ba.com/heathrow-cabin-crew

        • Lady London says:

          As soon as they’re not flying or if they’re not getting rostered onto favourable routes then the allowance part of their salary disappears.

      • John says:

        According to the link you posted the average take home pay comes to around £16k, including extras (ie commission) – for London.

        • Shoestring says:

          I just posted it for information, I have nothing to hide. During the strikes, the unions admitted the average take home pay was about £24K plus pension & NICs.

          And getting to stay in hotels on the company plus sitting on the First Officer’s knee at drinks.

          • Adam says:

            Why are you mentioning NICs as if they are an emolument paid to the employee rather than a levy paid to the state that every employer must pay? It’s misleading.

          • CV3V says:

            ‘And getting to stay in hotels on the company plus sitting on the First Officer’s knee at drinks’

            Are you on some sort of wind up these days? If i work away from home the company pays the cost, even staff who are away from home for months get an allowance – its a job expense. Bear in mind when staff arrive at a hotel they have been working and are jet lagged like the rest of us, they have to get some R n R before flying back in a day or two. The days of 5 day stopovers are long gone.

            As regard to the First Officer’s comment you clearly dont know how the crew behave (or rather dont behave) when down route. Its not the 60’s.

        • Secret Squirrel says:

          On those wages they must all still live at home based in or near London.

      • Tim says:

        It is absolutely not true that the average mixed fleet age is above £25k. I don’t know where you’ve got that figure from. BA said in their last strikes that the average was around £20k, which Unite proved wrong by providing thousands of pay slips! My experience with a friend who was mixed fleet, was the average was £1200-1300 a month, and the most she ever received was £1750.

        • The Savage Squirrel says:

          Just on a point of science … a sample of pay slips selected by one side – and so likely not random – is not “proof” of anything.

    • Joanna says:

      I can believe that the starting pay is £13000 that’s below minimum wage

      • Shoestring says:

        I *can’t* believe it, but it’s a free world: you can believe what you like. I just post the information then it’s over to you and your judgement.

        • Mike says:

          Harry – you are alive, I haven’t seen you for ages – hope you are OK

          • Alex Sm says:

            I just thought about it yesterday too! Wondering how the place in the sun treating him

        • AJA says:

          But Joanna is correct. That base salary is below the UK minimum wage which suggests that allowances and extra payments must be included in the salary calculations otherwise BA would be heavily fined for breaking the law.

          I am not going to debate the merits of paying such low salaries but the sad fact is BA gets (used to get) more applications than available positions ie demand outstripping supply. That is why the salary level is where it’s at. And with flying demand depressed and potentially thousands of unemployed crew that isn’t going to change.

          And as for legacy crew members disagreeing with moving to the newer fleet they really have little choice, harsh as it sounds, if they want to continue being a BA employee. Either that or choose to volunteer to go (I bet Rob’s friend now wishes they’d taken the £40k).

          My sympathies go out to all BA staff, these are horrendous times and it sounds like the airline will be a miserable place to be working at and flying as passengers will be even less pleasurable than it already is – we really are human self-loading cargo.

          I bet the airline is just grateful this wasn’t their 100th anniversary year. (Even if last year was only tenuously that statistic.)

      • BJ says:

        The reality is that millions (yes probably millions) of people, and by extension hundreds of thousands of families, including those of some of BA’s workers and contractors, are on wages so low that they cannot make ends meet or face great difficulty in doing so. The explosion in food banks over the last few years is a reflection of this, the vast majority who use them are using them because they need to, not because they want to save as much cash as they can for drink, drugs etc. The problem we have got into is that too many who are comfortable on middle incomes (not the rich or super rich) either fail or refuse to see the plight of those who are only just managing or not managing at all. This group is a huge proportion of the population and the situation cannot go on unchecked indefinitely. TM at least acknowledged the problem with noble words on entering Downing Street but then reverted to type and did nothing. Talk is cheap, the same will happen with BoJo and the regions. Sure, the problems the economy, and particularly the travel and hospitality industry, faces from Covid-19 is huge and will require difficult changes to be made but in making these changes companies such as BA should be looking to right some wrongs too, not just to dig existing holes deeper.

        • John w says:

          + 1. – totally agree . Nobody should be suggesting that someone,s salary out of Heathrow should be around 13K per annum , with the cost of London . BA is already profitable ???

        • Spursdebs says:

          People are clueless what it’s like to survive on sod all money. I’m lucky my house is paid for but it was a long hard road of doing any job I could to get it done.
          There’s some companies getting very rich out of this pandemic, I was speaking to a care company yesterday who said they have never been so busy as people want to buy care in to their homes instead of putting their relations in a home with the pandemic.
          The costs are eye watering, and I know the actual Carer’s are paid the minimum as I’ve done that job, well still doing it for £67 a week Carer’s allowance.

          • Secret Squirrel says:

            @Spursdebs:
            Our neighbour informed us his wife’s care home for Dementia is costing £1200 a week. I was gobsmacked, I know they pay some staff to stay overnight or live in-house but those charges are ridiculous.
            Profiteering out of the sick is low.

          • Spursdebs says:

            @Secret squirrel… my friends father in law tested positive in hospital but showing no symptoms. His care home refused to have him back so was sent to a “covid home” £1500 a week. Apparently the government are paying for it for a set amount of weeks. I was looking at getting some help in for me to look after Mum as I can’t go on doing 18 hour days 7 days a week I’m exhausted been doing it for 3 years since Mum moved in with me, £20 an hour for daily care hopefully Mum might get some funding but who knows and £1000 a week for a live in carer for when I can get away for a week which we will have to self fund.

          • Ken says:

            What if they need 60 hours a week care ?
            £1200 doesn’t then seem so bad.

          • Spursdebs says:

            @ Ken have you ever been in a dementia home?
            If you think they actually get 60 hours of personal care you are very naive. And good luck to you wish I didn’t know or have any first hand knowledge about dementia and caring and what goes on and what doesn’t go on.

          • callum says:

            The reason why this argument will never end is that both sides use absurd hyperbole.

            It’s an irrefutable fact that it’s possible to live a semi-decent life on “sod all money” – it’s exactly what I do. A HUGE proportion of people struggling on low incomes are, or have been, financially irresponsible. Which does not remotely make it acceptable to judge any individuals (especially given you don’t have any idea how they’ve managed their finances), but does make the stats about X% of people living in relative poverty etc. questionable.

            On the other side of the coin, it is absolutely not a desirable way to run a civilised society, and I greatly object to having to live in a society with anyone who thinks it is. This crisis will throw a spanner in the works, but there should have been (and still should be) some kind of system where profitable companies are forced to pay a higher minimum wage. IAG regularly making over a billion pounds in profit per year should absolutely not be allowed to have any employees on such a low wage.

          • sayling says:

            @Callum

            By that token, can/ should Virgin Atlantic pay substantially less, being they’ve not made a profit for a few years? Should staff be paying them to work?

          • Mikeact says:

            @Spursdeb..keep cheerful, remain positive and make sure the glass is always half full…

          • Ken says:

            Sorry Spursdeb,
            I thought the £1200 was for a home care package rather than a care home.

            I agree that no-one gets 60 hours of week care in a residential care home, and my experience of looking round care homes about 9 years ago was depressing.

        • Harry T says:

          Amen, BJ, amen.

          • Spursdebs says:

            @ Callum if that’s aimed me can you say so but I’ll answer it in any case. I am one of those people who survive on very little so spare me your lecture. I’m completely the wrong demographic for this site but you used to get good info on earning/ spending miles in the good old days but sadly it’s evolved in to something quite different now. I really miss the Lego and printer ink days.

          • ken says:

            A ludicrous comparison using every trick in the Spectators book to try and illustrate how taxes are too high and benefit claimants have it easy.

            Not many mythical 2 + 2 families with one partner at home, especially living in Hackney.

            Even then, an additional £235 a week net income makes a world of difference to living a life.

      • Rob says:

        That excludes allowances, which include a ‘time in the air’ allowance of £3 per hour or so.

        It’s not below minimum wage even at £13000 because your legal maximum annual flying hours are capped at 900, although training etc is on top.

    • Ken says:

      Shareholders never a great fan of business going bust just so management can pursue their agenda.

    • mradey says:

      You lost the argument BJ, at ‘fair’.

  • Sam G says:

    BA are well placed to go in offering the absolute minimums and huge working practice changes – plenty of scope to offer the union something back in negotiations then. e.g. guaranteeing Euro / worldwide fleet SH or LH only wouldn’t be that complicated as a scheduling rule for example.

    Also interested to see if they attempt some (temporary?) maneuver to use Cityflyer jets out of Heathrow. To remain competitive on connections they won’t want to cut frequency too much, but with overall traffic way down using these efficient little jets on Euro and domestic routes could make a lot of sense

    • Lady London says:

      I think BA will be back at LCY as soon as they can.
      There’s still lots of money in the City that prefers to fly from LCY, rather than LHR.
      They’d be nuts not to get back in there as soon as they can.
      They’ve got shareholders to earn dividends for.

  • Neil Preston says:

    Do we know which long haul routes are covered by which fleet. Do we really notice a different level of service?

  • Ken says:

    Don’t forget BA are using the furlough scheme money to run the clock down on the 45 day consultation.
    Surely not the intention of a ‘job retention scheme’.
    Repulsive tactics and grim how anyone on here should be celebrating it.

    • Shoestring says:

      Nobody’s celebrating it, we’re discussing it.

      I hate HR as much as the next guy, any other attitude to them would be odd. Apart from the girl in HR I nearly married. Plus the fact that when I got the old heave ho they went out of their way to be extremely generous in their settlement. And they were always very helpful with my recruitment needs and sending me graduate trainees for free for a year.

      Apart from that, I hate them with a vengeance.

      • Shoestring says:

        And they kept on sending me on management courses to develop my career.

        Apart from all that, HR are detestable.

        • Toddy says:

          When are they sending you on a course to improve your attitude?

        • TGLoyalty says:

          It wasn’t HR though was it. They are or atleast should just be a support function for the actual management to identify needs and support their employees etc

    • Erico1875 says:

      I believe its 90 days to force changes to an employment contract

      • meta says:

        And after 90 days they can accept T&C under protest, then work under protest for 2-4 months then go on strike just when the travel starts picking up next Spring/Summer.

      • Jay1993 says:

        It used to be, now only 45… Tories changed that.

    • Lady London says:

      @Ken are you saying British Airways is running the consultation clock in parallel with taking furlough money from the government?

      • Rob says:

        It is. That’s why the 45 day ‘consultation’ has kicked in now, so that the redundancies can be done on 1st July when the furlough money ends.

    • Nick_C says:

      I think one intention of Furlough (the “job retention scheme”) was to stop millions of people all losing their jobs at the same time, and swamping the DWP with claims for Universal Credit.

      When lockdown and Furlough end, huge numbers will be losing their jobs.

  • Sandgrounder says:

    The market will decide the correct rate of pay, if BA can’t find sufficient staff, they will need to raise their rates. The UK electorate has shown over the last ten years that a UK with less regulation of business and less protection for workers is the country they want. The virus has provided an opportunity for acceleration here, but it’s an ongoing process across the whole economy. If you are dissatisfied with this trend, other countries are available.

    • Alex W says:

      Be careful what you wish for. The brain drain and exodus of skilled workers has already started.

      • Sandgrounder says:

        It may not be my personal desire, but it’s a fact. I gave up trying to change the world a long time ago.

      • BJ says:

        What’s happened at IC over the last few years? Has staff retention become a problem or are they paying up to hold on to them?

      • mr_jetlag says:

        Not to belittle the situation of the flight crews at all, but the reality is that they suddenly have to conpete for a much smaller number of flights and so the more expensive ones will be the first to be made redundant. I don’t think we need to worry about a brain drain as other countries’ economies are even more hard hit.

        • TGLoyalty says:

          Apart from that’s not a fair way of identifying employees to cut.

          After VR it gets really shitty for everyone involved in CR

    • Bagoly says:

      “Other countries are available”
      27 of them cease to be available for jobs such as cabin crew on 1st January 2021.

      • meta says:

        No, they don’t. Nothing stops anyone from employing someone and obtaining work permit for them or someone doing it on their own. It’s probably harder, but it does not mean the opportunity ceases.

        • Lady London says:

          It depends on their work category. Most countries have restrictions. Mainly allowing higher professional occupations. Might include pilots(subject to demand existing) but cabin crew or ground staff unlikely to get a permit to work most other countries.

          Sorry meta the people being made redundant are in roles they won’t be admitted into other countries to do. In Europe, yes, till 30th December this year.

          There are just too many people. Most people being born now quite likely won’t ever have a job. As @Novice says, humanity has to sit up and take note.

    • JohnG says:

      @Sandgrounder “The UK electorate has shown over the last ten years that a UK with less regulation of business and less protection for workers is the country they want.”

      I think that is a reasonable interpretation, though I’ll admit I’m not entirely sure whether it was serious or straight faced ironic, but using vote results to define the electorate’s position on specific issues is rarely a source of definitive information. The current government spending binge is a direct reverse of austerity, and the electorate seem to like the change while also having voted for parties aligned with the previous position. The public can hardly do enough to show admiration and affection for the NHS now, but voted for candidates who cut NHS pay in real terms and underfunded it for a decade.

      Even the Brexit vote is a good example of that. It was a single issue referendum and I imagine that even the supporters of Brexit, while happy that it is happening, would have preferred to know what Brexit would mean in some detail earlier in the process rather than having a painfully long period, after the vote, arguing in vacuous terms like “Brexit means Brexit”.

    • Paul Pogba says:

      People aren’t voting for worse employment rights, they’re voting for cultural defence. If you’re bored during “lock down” try reading Eric Kaufmanns Whiteshift.

    • Londonsteve says:

      Indeed they are and I plan to take full advantage of the opportunity while I still can. I suspect there will be an exodus of British workers after the end of the furlough scheme, heading to where work is available and in all likelihood, the standard of living is also higher. Many will be foreign workers returning home but there will be a lot of Brits among them, myself included. I’ve discovered (if I’m honest, to my absolute horror, because the UK should be paying more by comparison) that I can earn 75% of my London takehome working in the same job in Sofia, where I can comfortably afford to rent a city centre flat on that salary and forget about sharing in mould and roach infested flats.

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