MPs to grill BA boss over deep job cuts

Lily Canter
·2-min read
British Airways planes parked up in Gatwick after being grounded due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
British Airways planes parked up in Gatwick after being grounded due to the coronavirus outbreak. Photo: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Airlines boss Willie Walsh will be grilled by MPs tomorrow over controversial plans to cut more than a quarter of the British Airways (BA) workforce.

The chief executive of BA's parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) will be asked to justify the culling of 12,000 BA jobs when IAG has £8.7bn ($10.8bn) cash reserves.

Walsh is also likely to be quizzed by the transport select committee about the decision to make deep cuts at BA but no redundancies at IAG's Spanish airlines – Iberia and Vueling. This is despite BA contributing around 60% of group profits last year.

The hearing tomorrow is part of an investigation into the impact of COVID-19 on the aviation industry.

Huw Merriman, chairman of the Transport Select Committee and Conservative MP for Bexhill and Battle, told The Mail on Sunday: "We are trying to work out what IAG's strategy is.

"Are the job cuts all about surviving the coronavirus crisis, or is it a plan Willie Walsh has had all along to cut costs – and he's using the pandemic as an opportunity?"

READ MORE: New setback for airlines as UK proposes fresh quarantine plan

BA furloughed more than 30,000 staff before announcing the redundancies last month and has gone on to secure a combined £1.17bn in commercial loans backed by the Spanish government and the Bank of England. IAG declined to comment.

A further blow to the aviation industry came yesterday when the UK government announced plans to introduce a 14-day quarantine for people arriving to the UK. It follows attempts by many other countries to stem the spread of coronavirus and prevent a second wave.

Airline bodies said the plan would cause "immeasurable damage" to the industry and Walsh said BA would not restart flying if the UK imposed a quarantine.

The measures, expected to be introduced in early June, would require travellers, including those from the UK, to provide an address of where they will stay for the two weeks. Anyone caught breaching the quarantine would be fined up to £1,000 or deported.