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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.

  • J says:

    You’re right, sad state of affairs.

    It’s quite striking that Virgin crew who are not particularly well paid either seem to be a lot happier – says a lot about BA’s toxic management.

    • Doug M says:

      Not just toxic management, it’s the natural order of how people feel. Pay someone £20K when they’re used to £18K and they’ll feel good. Pay someone else £50K for the same job, then reduce it to £48K and you’ll have one really unhappy person. It’s not always about absolutes, it’s more about progression and a sense of improving.
      Doubtless BA will milk the situation, and the crew losing their jobs are entering the market at a time of little hope and opportunity. I genuinely feel for them.

  • Spaghetti Town says:

    Don’t forget BA still have some overseas crew bases. I believe Mexico City is still going but I think it’s quite small. What contracts are these people on? are they part of worldwide fleet?

  • Alex M says:

    Don’t see anything cynical here – in fact, it would be a quite sensible business decision to implement all that mentioned above.

    • Kruggs says:

      I agree – WW has a bad reputation but I think he just takes the emotion out of the decision. He has been more practical and insightful on his decisions to cut costs than many other airlines, which has left IAG in a relatively better position. I genuinely believe he cares about the success and sustainability of the company above all, even if that is painful for many.

    • J says:

      I hope one day you lose your job or your pay and conditions are massively reduced. Maybe then you’ll be capable of showing some empathy?

      • Nick_C says:

        What a nasty thing to wish on anyone.

        • J says:

          Alex M is wishing it on BA staff…

        • Lady London says:

          Personally I think @J’s comment perfectly fair.

        • MJ says:

          You must be joking.

          If somebody believes it’s good or even that it’s acceptable for BA (or indeed any company) to behave like this then I too sincerely hope the same thing happens to them some day or if they own a business, some other business comes to undercut them and put them out.

          After all, as these people are saying. It’s just good business sense, and what’s good for the gooe is good for the gander.

        • Andy S says:

          J is completely right, You make smug, know all comments and you deserve to be treated the same way.
          Anyone, when they accept a job does so on the terms and conditions of that job offer at the time of employment. Is it fair, further down the line your employer decides thats too generous and they can get people cheaper (the fact they are far less skilled doesn’t seem to matter) do they then have the right to rip up your terms and conditions or try to force you out.
          Can anyone say they would be happy or think it acceptable if they or their freinds and family were in the same position. I very much doubt it. If you sat and thought about it, rather than blurt of your first mindless thoughts, too often seen on social media and forums these days. Nice to see the idea we might come out of this more thoughtful and caring certainly doesn’t apply to some

    • Ian says:

      I agree. It’s a business decision that is long overdue. Whilst you can have sympathy and empathy for the people involved, the reality of the situation is that the unions have had too much power at BA for too long. The current situation means it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity for BA to deal with its legacy cost issues and I for one don’t blame them for doing so. BA is a business, not a public service.

      • Cormac says:

        We have low cost airlines who have slit BA at the throat, but at what cost? Employee conditions being watered down it seems is a huge factor, and BA have to do that to compete. If we did not have employment laws than working conditions would be even weaker.

        It seems impressive rail travel in the UK can compete against air routes at all (sometimes, not always of course) considering rail operators have arguably the most powerful unions in the country to appease.

        • J says:

          No taxes on train tickets. Trains in the UK are expensive though compared to many other countries – not everyone is able to book months in advance to get the cheap fares.

        • ChrisBCN says:

          It’s a common misconception that the UK has the most expensive trains in Europe. In fact, the UK is both amongst the cheapest (when booking in advance) and the most expensive (when booking on day of travel and not buying an advance ticket – you can buy advance tickets on day of travel which many don’t bother to do). Puts us somewhere middle of the pack, but YMMV.

          It’s another misconception that British trains are the most delayed, but that seems even further off topic for now 😄

        • Lady London says:

          Yup @ChrisBCN. UK trains are kind of like Switzerland without the quality.

        • ChrisBCN says:

          @lady London… If you’ve ever been trapped on one of those ancient trains from Geneva to Vevey you’ll know they are severely lacking in quality!

      • RussellH says:

        Unions have had hardly any power in the UK since the era of M.H. Thatcher and former union official (BALPA no less) N. B. Tebbit and others of that ilk. TUs are still routinely pilloried in the right wing press when they stand up as best they can for their members.

        The result, far too often in the UK, is businesses who seem to think that their employees are just an overhead, to be kept as cheap as possible, rather than a major resource to be cultivated and encouraged.

        But as long as staff are treated as though they are a problem, rather than part of the solution, service standards will continue to drop. I suspect, though, that BA’s standards will have to drop further before there is any chance that they will get better.

        • Andy S says:

          If this happens It’s an absolute given that BA’s standards will drop further. Since the introduction of mixed fleet the standards keep falling. As Rob said in the article. You have starry eyed youngsters who ignore that appalling contract they are signing in the hope of travelling the world. Soon the realisation of how hard they are being pushed for so little pay dawns, shattered from jet lag and tiredness and with their dreams dimmed they leave, removing what little experience was in the mixed fleet pool. Whereas worldwide crew stayed for years and learnt from each other, flying mixed fleet the crew always look like rabbits in the headlights just fumbling through, missing, spilling and dropping things, albeit with a smile and enthusiasm but it doesn’t replace class learnt over years. You can tell in minutes which fleet is serving you. On our last flight To JNB in First in December it was embarrassing how poor they were. On a 2-4-1 you can laugh it off, almost feeling sorry for them, so far out of their comfort zone. If you are paying £8000 I think you would view it differently. The old adage if you pay peanuts you get monkeys has never been truer. The idea standards have to fall further to get better is a dream. It will only get worse and worse that is a given. Just playing further into the hands of the classy Middle eastern airlines

    • Sunguy says:

      “Sensible business decision” and therein lies the problem……

      We all bemoan Mr. Cruze and his cost cutting rubbish…..and the lower standards of product he likes to shove out the door…..

      However, all of these things he has done are looked upon as a “sensible business decision” – on paper they very much are….I mean – pax want to get from A to B safely – if it is costing you an extra £1000 per flight to furnish said passengers with peanuts (remember – bean counters love to over inflate costs – by using formulas that dont scale ) – then on paper it looks fantastic … and then you remove the hot towels that saves an extra £500 per flight, and so it goes….

      Now, thats just “business” right?

      But then, once you start messing with your staff and their livelihood – these are the customer facing people that “are” your business – we have all had the sulky waitress/waiter experience or the checkout attendant that really doesn’t want to be there – and because they are being paid peanuts for a job they don’t want to be doing – they don’t care if they are fired – often being on the dole pays about the same or more (no need to travel daily) – so no parking/bus/train fares,no child minding, etc….

      Suddenly, you endup going from an experienced, well trained, long term career staff to a majority that don’t care if they have the job or not…..once they have had the training and a little experience…and you go from a company with a caring well run customer experience to not that great…….but you made a “sensible business decision”…..still…right….I mean how many other businesses have the same things as you ?

      I had this at BAA back in the 90s – circus air took over from BAA in some positions, advertised minimum wage via the job centre, the results were awesome, one guy just wanted to be fired so he could go back on the dole and not be “sanctioned” so, lazed around, slept, disappeared….the only thing that he did was actually turn up for work…but never on time!

      • Cormac says:

        It’s an all stick and no carrot approach. You must deliver exceptional customer service and smile for tuppence a day, no matter if you are dying on the inside.

        If customer satisfaction falls, sure it is nothing a team training session on customer service full of buzzwords at a Premier Inn run by an expensive management consultancy can’t sort out! /s

  • Novice says:

    I’ll be honest BA crew whenever I have flown BA have never been nice or exemplary.

    It’s like they are doing you a favour to even acknowledge your presence. I don’t know why. Maybe that’s how they treat young solo travellers in Business class. But all my other flights on other airlines, the crews have always been nice and it hasn’t seemed they have a stick up their ****.

    Best crews I have ever experienced, Qatar and Cathay Pacific. Turkish are good too. Lufthansa are too professional. I can carry on with this for an hour because after my flights with any airlines I always get a sense of what sort of crew they will be.

    The crew is the reason why I try my best to not use BA.

    • Novice says:

      The product was not that great either though the new business product looks decent.

    • Spaghetti Town says:

      Was flying in club once and had a really rude CSD who later came and apologised to me saying she was quite stressed as it had been a busy flight.

      • Novice says:

        It’s happened to me always on BA. Never on any other airlines. Some must be nice but unfortunately I have only ever encountered rude, unprofessional staff who think they know best and you are just getting in the way/ you are someone to be annoyed at for being there. As I said it might just be my age and the fact that I am flying business class. Maybe I come across as an instagramer or blogger though I don’t take videos, pics or have laptops 💻 out.

        I don’t know but the fact that every other airlines’ crew iI have ever encountered have always been good to me is telling in itself how high and mighty BA crew think of themselves.

        I have always been a polite traveller and sometimes even take chocolate boxes for crew on longhaul flights if I think they deserve it, I give it otherwise don’t. So I can put my hand on my heart and say I have never attracted that sort of behaviour.

        • Doug M says:

          Have you ever flown on a US airline? They have some crew that leave you with the impression they’re doing you a favour letting you on the plane.

          • Novice says:

            Alaska and southwest are good. I have not used other US carriers.

          • Anna says:

            AA cabin crew are scary ladies! Behave with them as you would with US immigration staff 😂

          • Chrisasaurus says:

            Dknt get me started on the uniform standards of AA crew in J…

        • J says:

          Hate to make it personal but I think you sound like the entitled and complaining type who will just slag off BA (and Virgin who you’ve never even used) no matter what while praising Qatar and Cathay which are irrelevant comparisons. BA crew are not perfect but they’re really not bad either – I’ve done hundreds of flights and for the most part they’ve been positive experiences.

          • Novice says:

            Well you might be the sort of person they like. And despite being young I’ve been brought up good and I know the realities of the world. I have already said that I am a polite person and I know I am.

            I compare because they are all working in the same sort of job. So have same stress and pressure. And if a person is on the plane they aren’t there for free so the crew should do their best to be pleasant. Nobody has forced anyone to be a cabin crew, it’s entitled when you pick a job yourself and then take it out on the ppl who are using your services.

            I have never used Virgin as you have stated so I have never said anything about their services or crew in my comments. My comments about Virgin have always been about their business models or lack of profit which has nothing to do with service.

            You always talk as though a person should be patriotic over an airline. Well, I care about the service I get, I don’t care which countries the airlines belong to.

            When you order your food from a takeaway, do you order because if the food and service or do you order because it is a British place? 😂

        • Anna says:

          I’ve found BA cabin crew to be almost always empathetic and charming since I started flying in J and F. The journey itself has been a real joy for me since I discovered premium cabins and the crew is a significant part of that. But I spend most of my life running around after other people, both personally and professionally so I am a sucker for anyone who brings me a meal and a drink and then clears up after me 😂

          • Anna says:

            I should probably add I’ve never had an issue with them in economy either, but obviously they don’t have the opportunity to lavish customer service on a full Y cabin!

          • Novice says:

            It might be an age thing then. But shouldn’t be. Young people have the same right to a good service than an older person.

          • Anna says:

            I’ve been flying with BA for most of my life! For years they & Iberia were the only carriers serving northern Spain where my family is from.

          • Novice says:

            I have only flown BA probably 14 times so I am basing my opinion on that. No crew staff was nasty to me. It was always that they all never smile or were nice/friendly either. I don’t require much as a traveller as I don’t drink alcohol in air so I just didn’t like their attitudes I guess. As a teen travelling solo (when I started my touring) it just left a bad impression.

    • the_real_a says:

      I have said many times that the worst experiences have been on BA, with much deadwood that needs clearing and they are always older staff. I get the same feeling as dealing with a doctors receptionist. Still feel sorry for those losing their jobs, have been in the same situation (but turned out to be a wonderful gift to move on in life in a different way)

    • Harry T says:

      BA have always been “fine” for me. I’m 29 and I don’t feel I get treated any differently to the 50+ business crew. I did notice when I first flew Club that the CC apologise when they bash into your shoulder, as opposed to Y where they don’t (I have broad shoulders and use the aisle seats for legroom).

      Pretty much every other airline I’ve flown has better service in all cabins, especially Qatar and Qantas. Qantas domestic business class makes Club Europe look like an absolute joke from a service and hard product perspective.

      But BA have never given me “bad” service. I suspect I may be easy to please, as I don’t come from money and have only recently been able to afford to fly business class.

      • Harry T says:

        Is it perhaps a perception thing? I can honestly count on one hand the number of times people have been rude to me in any context (and I work in healthcare!).

        • Novice says:

          @Harry T, it could be perception I don’t know. I just have never felt the crew to be warm or caring. I must admit I can be hard to please but all I ask for is a smile and the crew not to act like they would rather not have had to interact with a person.

          I don’t know but honestly I have only ever noticed it on BA. Admittedly I have not had hundreds of flights but still.

          That’s why I said about others eg Qatar crew. They make you want to fly with them and I’m saying all this as a person who doesn’t need to chat and is pretty low-key when flying.

  • BlueHorizonuk says:

    I said at the very start that this is a one time opportunity for every company on the planet to do what they have always wanted to do under the guise of COVID-19.

  • Daniel says:

    They’re really proving themselves to be one of the most disgusting airlines about. We should be ashamed to call them our flag carrier.

  • Steve says:

    What salary are Worldwide crew on?

  • MJ says:

    Some of the comments here are disgusting, yes this is a terrible situation for a business but BA isn’t a regular business. It was born from the national flag carrier and has been supported by the government to create a ridiculously strong market position.

    For them to now use this pandemic to push people into jobs that may not even pay them enough to survive, making them claim working tax credits etc and have 2nd jobs is ridiculous.

    At the very least you could pay people a reasonable living wage and not try and spit on crew who have worked for you for years.

    Why should the taxpayer be subsidising you to hire your employees while also allowing you such a dominant position in the market and maybe even bailing you out if it comes to that.

    • Anna says:

      Agreed, but this is part of a much bigger problem in this country. It was really disappointing to see minimum wage being offered for fruit and veg picking when apparently we are desperate for people to do this work and avoid dreadful wastage of food. (Ditto all the low paid essential workers, but you could go on for ever).

      • MJ says:

        Yes of course it is part of a bigger problem. Why should the taxpayer subsidise any worker really?

        In my opinion all full time jobs should be paid to a living wage, and be at a level where you do not need to apply for tax credits/benefits.

        If your business cannot afford to pay people enough to live, ie buy food and pay for rent etc then I’m sorry but you do not have a business that should exist.

        Sure, if you don’t believe somebody is worth that wage, don’t hire them but being paid so little is only a few steps away from service staff in the US relying on tips to make ends meet.

      • Novice says:

        Apparently I read somewhere that out of 50 k applications only 100+ Brits turned up for work as fruit pickers.

        • Paul Pogba says:

          No Brits weren’t hired, filtered out for not speaking Romanian and wanting to live at home rather than renting accommodation from the farmer.

        • Spaghetti Town says:

          I also saw this. Very much doubt that’s true however.

          • David the 1st says:

            The data are:
            50k interested
            6k interested enough to complete video interview
            1k offered jobs
            112 accepted the offer

          • Lady London says:

            Curious that a video interview was required. Seems a bit excessive.

          • memesweeper says:

            My daughter expressed interest — no reply.

            How hard did they try? I suspect they wanted the staff they always used to have, from the same agencies/contacts/families, and who can blame them.

            However, with mass unemployment/underemployment a sudden and crushing reality for millions of British people it should not be an option to fly people in from abroad to work.

        • Bazza says:

          Lots of brits applied last minute as the Romainians had already arrived before the job adverts went out…

        • ken says:

          Lets be honest here, fruit picking is really only suitable for able bodied students (and fit) and unemployed people who don’t have housing costs (say living at parents).

          Unless you miraculously live next to the farm, its live in, and basic dorms or 4 to a caravan.

          Any kind of childcare or looking after a parent then forget it.

          My last experience was 35 years ago but it was brutally hard then and I was probably the fittest and strongest I’ve ever been.

          I’m reasonably fit these days for say a 9 hour day walking in the Lake District fells but I doubt if I’d physically last a day on a farm now.

          • Novice says:

            True it is hard work. I’m healthy and young but I wouldn’t do it. That’s why we should be grateful for these European ppl willing to do the job.

      • ken says:

        Not making excuses but the Strawberries grown in Staffs or Herefordshire picked by Eastern Europeans are competing against Spanish fruit picked by North Africans.

        Unless we address that and everyone is happy to pay a bit more then I can’t see it being more than minimum wage.

    • J says:

      Agreed MJ good points.

    • Cormac says:

      But think about the benefits for the consumer who can go to Costa del Mono Loco for £5! Until said consumer has their own working conditions watered down.

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