In an op-ed penned for the Mail on Sunday, British Airways’ CEO Alex Cruz defends the heavy-handed tactics his airline has used against staff. His point is to cast British Airways as the true victim. But his crocodile tears are not convincing.
British Airways Blames COVID-19
Cruz’s strategy is to blame shift. First, the problem is not British Airways, he contends, but COVID-19.
Early on, he argues about the severity of the problem:
“In May this year, we flew 485 passenger flights. Last year, on the first day of May, we had flown that number of flights by lunchtime.”
Few would question how severely travel demand has weakened, though this is a nice way to illustrate it.
British Airways Blames UK Government
Next, the problem is the UK government. Cruz attacks the recently-enacted 14-day quarantine rule for United Kingdom arrivals, something he says only exacerbated the problem.
“…The Government’s decision to introduce 14-day quarantine for visitors arriving into the UK, without consultation or scientific evidence, has dealt our restart plans a hammer blow.
It is irrational to stop people travelling from countries with a lower risk of infection into the UK and to treat those that do come more harshly, under criminal law, than people who actually have Covid-19.”
No disagreement there. I think the UK’s latest quarantine rule is (to borrow a British term) bollocks.
UK government regulations are also blamed for the reason why British Airways has threatened to terminate all employees. Cruz argues that UK labor law requires such a notice before negotiations begin.
He also wags his finger at the UK for threatening to take away Heathrow landing slots, but oddly fails to make a case for why that should not be done (beyond “we are struggling”).
British Airways Blames Unions
Third, the problem is not British Airways, but the unions. Cruz blames unions for refusing to come to the table and argues if he had not made staff aware that job cuts were on the table, he would have been sued by them for lack of notice.
The “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” approach is not without merit, but demonizing unions will not bring them to the table. Cruz asserts:
“We will continue to show up for union meetings and hope they stop scaremongering and attacking our brand and start doing what their members pay them for, namely representing them as they deserve.”
Unions, however, have refused to even entertain discussions that start upon the premise that all employees may need to be terminated. To do so would lend legitimacy to such threats, reason the unions.
You can read the entire op-ed here.
What Cruz Misses – British Airways Is Not Just The Victim!
The problem with the op-ed is not so much what Cruz said, but what he did not say.
As View From The Wing notes, in crying crocodile tears about how the whole world is ganging upon on British Airways, Cruz wholly fails to defend why British Airways is worth saving. He notes that demand will not return to 2019 levels until 2023, notes that over 98% of British Airways traffic is international, but fails to articulate a vision for how BA will navigate this difficult time…there must be more than cutting jobs.
But the problem runs deeper. Strikes have always been a way to ensure a balance between labor and management and avoid the sort of draconian cuts that British Airways has sought for years but never been able to fully accomplish. With almost all flights grounded, strikes no longer are a viable threat. Thus, COVID-19 becomes a foil to do what British Airways first tried to do in 2010 and failed.
People see that. No other airline in the world is threatening to fire all its employees. And when the public, including lawmakers, view that as a disproportionate response, all the inconvenient truths of corporate socialism…like the Heathrow landing slots and taxpayer subsidies…dispel the notion that British Airways must lean on itself to survive.
Cruz says, “This is a challenge not of our making, nor one we could ever have conceived.” I’m not so sure. Surely, the damages stemming from COVID-19 were inconceivable as late as February. But British Airways has created a huge challenge for itself in part by treating its employees as mere commodities to be discarded.
I don’t evny the position he’s in. Nor do I wish anything but the best for British Airways. But spare me the crocodile tears, please. Much of BA’s problem is its own making.
> Read More On British Airways’ Labor Woes:
- British Airways Prepares To Fire All Flight Attendants In Scheme To Slash Wages
- Why British Airways Cabin Staff Are So Afraid
- British Airways Seeks Vengeance Against Pilots
- Will UK Confiscate Heathrow Slots From British Airways?
- British Airways Called “National Disgrace” In Bipartisan Smackdown From Parliament