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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.

  • krys_k says:

    Here’s something that I’ve been thinking about since I read this. In all of the time that legacy crew and mixed crew having been working ‘side-by-side’, have legacy crew or the unions that represent them taken any active steps to alleviate the pay discrepancy with mixed crew e.g. legacy crew contributing part of their earnings into a scheme where funds are then shared for their poorer paid colleagues who undertake exactly the same job. I suspect not. And perhaps one might say, why should they. But It does illustrate that the world of economics is cut throat and self-serving whether you are an employee or management.

    • J says:

      I believe MF when it was set up was not unionised. MF since unionised but I don’t think they have the same union as Eurofleet/Worldwide. I think under the UK’s anti union laws it would also be illegal for Eurofleet/Worldwide say to strike on behalf of MF to try and win better conditions for them. There have been strikes on MF but turnout wasn’t great – easy for management to scare a 19 year old into not striking. And why on earth would Eurofleet/Worldwide donate into a scheme for MF when BA are usually making billions in profits? Bizarre comment.

    • MJ says:

      So instead of a profitable business doing the right thing and paying people a reasonable wage, other people who work for the business (and we’re not even the upper management who might get paid millions so a few quid off wouldn’t hurt) should give away part of their own wage?

      While I agree that if possible it would be great for legacy crew to push for better standards for MF, but given J’s comment below it may not be possible legally. I don’t know enough about the law to comment though.

      • krys_k says:

        The point I was making, perhaps badly, is that in good times, plenty of cabin crew that were on legacy contracts had no issue earning far more than their own colleagues who were doing the same job. Likewise, customers who used BA, including I suspect everyone commenting on HFP, did not have an issue with this, at least not enough of an issue to stop using their points and vouchers and vote with their feet. And the management of the BA as well as shareholders were also compliant in this system. The point I tried to make is that the whole situation with legacy / mixed contracts is a little more grey than black and white, and that unfairness was already inherent within the system; and that most stakeholders, from fellow colleagues, through management and customers were complicit. And so now, BA’s actions are merely a continuation of ‘unfairness’ that was ingrained into the fabric of business as usual that everyone commenting on HFP wittingly or unwittingly supported.

        • MJ says:

          That’s a fair point. I do think perhaps if the legacy and mixed fleet had cooperative together more, it may have been productive to both of them.

          I also agree with your point about customers. To be very honest I’ve never flown anything other than economy at the cheapest rates and haven’t ever used BA, just started this points game last year or so and have been waiting to make redemptions however I will now have to think about which companies have behaved in a manner I am willing to support and drive my future business to them.

          However just because something is unfair, doesn’t mean you should continue to try and race to the bottom in who can treat people worse.

    • Rob says:

      You also need to factor in massive training and recruitment costs though. 1 legacy crew member who serves for 20 years would have seen 10 generations of Mixed Fleet in that period, with 10 expensive rounds of recruitment and initial training. Start factoring all this in and the gaps narrow.

      • J says:

        Exactly, the cost of recruitment and training for Mixed Fleet must be enormous with such a high staff turnover.

        • krys_k says:

          Yes agree.
          I’m now focusing on the irony that this article has brought out many a Che Guevaras and their crocodile tears – I say this with some confidence since all those commenting about £13k base salaries and living wage were only too happy to fly BA and collect points from companies and via companies that in one way or another supported the very system that they are now railing against (indeed they more than likely have the same inequities built into their business models). And before I’m accused of being an Albert Dunlap, I don’t think it’s fair, but it is fair economics.

          • J says:

            Not everyone is flying BA for fun or has a choice – some people fly for work. Our corporate traveller scheme favours BA. The main route I use (to Berlin) BA is also the only option from Heathrow.

          • MJ says:

            If wanting people to earn a reasonable wage the taxpayer doesn’t need to top up makes people Che Guevara then I’d hate to hear your thoughts on universal healthcare, 5 day working weeks, sick pay and holiday allowances.

        • RussellH says:

          But were they to treat their staff better, would they not actually stay in the job?
          You say yourself that Eurofleet and Worldwide staff have seen cabin crew as a career, while Mixed Fleet staff see it as something to do for just a few years (while they look for something better, presumably?).
          If BA were to make the job an attractive career, they could save on the massive training bills.

          It reminds me of the difference between the way that bar/restaurant staff see their job in the UK/USA cf. France/Switzerland/Germany/Austria.

          • krys_k says:

            MJ / the Che comment wasn’t aimed at you nor J who have been very reasonable in your comments, rather the sudden outpouring of support for mixed fleet crew throughout the comments to this article by folks who haven’t given it a consideration in the past and I wager won’t in the future. For the record supportive of all the things you mention. However, having only ever been a business owner for too many years to mention, I’ve only ever partaken of the universal healthcare.

          • MJ says:

            krys_k / Ah fair enough, as I said before then I do agree with your point, I guess people want things that are easy and cheap, BA is convenient for a lot of people and so despite their behaviour with regards to refunds, this action against staff etc people will very likely be forgetting about this very soon and flying with them one they can.

            Shame really, otherwise we could hold organisations to account and atually get them to improve standards.

      • marcw says:

        I don´t think there´s a big difference in training 10 or 30 people.

        • krys_k says:

          I assume though J that you are a HFP reader not for any social justice reasons but rather in order to make use of the points that your employer has allowed you to earn. Point being, we’re all complicit in the way that BA treats its employees. For good or bad, it’s just a part of economics, and I’ve chosen to acknowledge it as part of the system (as I’ve also had to accept that due to the lockdown my business is earning zero money, and future prospects are dire; and for obscure reasons neither I nor my business qualify for any government support, despite creating millions in revenue for HMRC through said business over the last few years).

          • J says:

            Sure I’ll play the points game but that doesn’t preclude me from having a social conscious. Sorry to hear about your business, it’s frustrating that some people/businesses are not getting the help they deserve.

          • RussellH says:

            Not everyone here is lucky enough to earn loyalty points via an employer. Some of us have to work very hard at it.

    • Novice says:

      I agree @krys_k. Ppl only speak up or care when something happens to themselves and that is the reality of the world and has been for before I was born in this doomed world 🌍

      Validates my belief that humanity has had its best by date 😂 Time for us to perish…

      • Blue Mountains says:

        Wrong. The amount of comments and interest in this story is proof that (a lot of) people DO care about others. For someone young (as you claim to be), your cynicism and pessimism are quite impressive, which is a shame. There are probably hundreds of readers who don’t comment, who feel this action by BA is actually despicable.

        • Novice says:

          Wrong. We are all commenting because we all have points/ jobs/ some sort of stake in BA and Virgin. So, I’m right. Yes, when you have older people killing the world 🌍 with their greed despite climate emergency, it doesn’t take long to become pessimistic when you see the selfishness and know we will live the consequences just because older generations knew they would be long dead when disasters will happen.

          I am a pessimistic optimist. We hope for the best, prepare for the worst. It’s a massive difference to pessimism.

  • Max says:

    How can someone survive on £13k a year, that’s poverty wage. And to think those staff are serving business customers who have paid £5k for their flights, it’s disproportionately wrong.

    • Anon says:

      I believe the £13k is just base salary that is topped up by per diems, payments per flight, overtime, etc. But Rob would know much better than I.

      Keep in mind the benefits as well for a young person – free trips to see amazing places, nice hotels, get to also do a nice sideline in duty free shopping for friends / family…

      • Spaghetti Town says:

        On top of their base salary, They get £3 an hour flying pay + sales commission on M and S food and duty free.

      • Spaghetti Town says:

        Overall i think the take home is about 22k.

        • Yuff says:

          As shoestring said earlier no one is forcing them to work

          • MJ says:

            What a ridiculous comment.

            Do you feel the same way about people working at Foxconn?

            People have to work to survive and it isn’t always easy to get a job or change jobs so in some sense they are forced to work in order to pay rent and have moneg for food etc. Why on earth should the taxpayer subsidise a company who doesn’t pay their employees enough. Especially a very profitable one.

            Are you happy that your tax pounds are being used to prop up businesses who wish to continue to pay people the bare minimum they can get away with?

          • Alex M says:

            It is not such a ridiculous comment, unfortunately. Globalisation, computerisation, and over-population means there are often more people than jobs.

          • Bazza says:

            Really? You know something I don’t. How does this work then?

  • ChrisA says:

    I think the £13k base salary in the article is incorrect. BA careers site says it is £15600.
    Many of the points raised in these comments will of course stand, but it is a good 15/16% difference in figure.

    • JamesW says:

      New cabin crew (no attestation) are recruited as “apprentices” (a scam to get concessions out of the government) and also the pay is less because BA claim it’s an apprenticeship with specific learning modules, so they set it lower. So new starters is that salary, but many are paid more.

  • Harry T says:

    I know PhD students with stipends that amount to more than £12,000 a year… and they are in the North East. I can’t imagine living on that in the South East.

    • Novice says:

      Establish an alternate capital in the north. I have always liked the idea 😂 You can buy a mansion with same amount of 💰 in north which only buys a studio apartment in London.

      Maybe we shouldn’t be giving the advantages away 😂

    • Orbitmic says:

      OK but PhD students would be required to have honours or masters degrees etc. Cabin crew require minimum qualifications.

    • marcw says:

      My partner PhD stipend at UCL was 1250. My PhD stipend at UCL was 1500. Now we live in the Netherlands, and holly cow, between 2 and 3k monthly (and Netherlands have 14 annual salaries).

  • Chris Galley says:

    The privilege of flying BA is something I will never let go of. It’s a wonder to behold. I really hope they make it. The lounge in NL is very special and I’m looking forward to them restarting the route soon.

    I have faith in BA.

  • Baji Nahid says:

    my thoughts are with the staff who have just been sh@fted by their own company. If there is anything us flyers can do is that post lockdown, whenever you do fly BA and feel you have received good service, is to give the crew a good review so that they are recognised for the services they have given you.

    Its all fine and well that we collect points and milk systems, but ultimately a good flight is always in the hands of the crew and we should all be thankful for their services.

    • JJW says:

      It would be great if all the crew were positive and customer friendly. Compared with other long haul airlines it’s like chalk and cheese. And some of them don’t seem to be properly trained; as for the cabin announcements… well…

  • Lesley says:

    The £13,079 figure is not what anyone earns. It is a starting point from which the salary is constructed. If you actually work you have to earn more than that as according to the blog you get an additional £3.14ph for every hour you are on duty. Assuming a 40 hour week for only 40 weeks a year (allowing for the very generous 30 days holiday a year plus an allowance for time off sick and statutory holidays) that makes an additional £5,000 odd. Its not great money but it is rather better than £13,079.

  • Mark says:

    My PhD stipend 5 years ago was 16000 pa in Scotland. There was no income or council tax!!

    • Josh says:

      That wasn’t a research council funded stipend though.

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