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British Airways boss Alex Cruz defends decision to axe 12,000 jobs

The boss of British Airways has defended his decision to cut 12,000 jobs and said the pandemic has left the national carrier ‘fighting for survival’.

Chief executive Alex Cruz stressed that ‘people need to get flying again’ if the company is to emerge through the winter.

But he told MPs that many would-be customers are still cautious about travelling while countries are constantly brought on and struck off the government’s quarantine list. 

The boss of British Airways has defended his decision to cut 12,000 jobs and said the pandemic has left the national carrier 'fighting for survival'

The boss of British Airways has defended his decision to cut 12,000 jobs and said the pandemic has left the national carrier ‘fighting for survival’

Mr Cruz was this morning grilled by members of the Commons’ Transport Select Committee, who probed him on the jobs bloodbath at BA during the pandemic.

In April, British Airways announced plans to axe up to 12,000 jobs, representing nearly 30 per cent of its workforce.

Mr Cruz said: ‘Fewer passengers means fewer flights, and fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them.

‘As CEO of British Airways, I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act incredibly fast.

‘I deeply, deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why MPs are concerned.’

He added: ‘This is an impossible situation. We’re having to make incredibly difficult decisions as a consequence of this pandemic and it is really only because of Covid-19 that we have had to go through such deep restructuring.

‘I have to make these difficult decisions at this time but I am completely dedicated and focused on protecting those nearly 30,000 jobs of those British Airways colleagues that will remain within the business.’  

Chief executive Alex Cruz stressed that 'people need to get flying again' if the company is to emerge through the winter

Chief executive Alex Cruz stressed that ‘people need to get flying again’ if the company is to emerge through the winter

He added: ‘People are still afraid of travelling. Of course, we are having weekly changes, as you know, to the quarantine list. 

‘We don’t have a testing solution yet. And still our customers are paying APD (air passenger duty) even just to fly on domestic regional flights.

‘So the overall situation is quite challenging, and this is why we are taking every measure possible to make sure that we can actually make it through this winter.’

And he went on: ‘The main focus at the moment is to survive. We must make it through, then we must be able to  compete effectively and make it through the recovery cycle… people need to get flying again. 

‘We must be able to get our airplanes up in the air again and we must be able to be ready to support that as it happens. That must be the focus at this point in time.’ 

The man who presided over British Airways’ decline steps down: Airline owner’s chief executive Willie ‘The Slasher’ Walsh who oversaw £121m industrial dispute, IT catastrophes and Covid 

Willie Walsh, 58, first joined the aviation field in 1979, when at the age of 17 he became a trainee pilot for Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus. 

He completed a Master’s degree in management and business administration at Trinity College, Dublin while in this role, before advancing to become a Boeing 737 captain.

Mr Walsh then joined company management and held positions including chief executive for then-company subsidiary Futura from 1998 to 2000.

In 2000, he returned to Aer Lingus as Chief Operating Officer and rose to CEO, succeeding Michael Foley, a year later.

Throughout his time as CEO, Mr Walsh reconfigured Aer Lingus as a budget airline – removing short-haul Business Class options and axing around 2,500 jobs in a time of financial instability. The move earned him the nickname ‘Slasher.’

Willie Walsh, 58, first joined the aviation field in 1979, when at the age of 17 he became a trainee pilot for Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus

Willie Walsh, 58, first joined the aviation field in 1979, when at the age of 17 he became a trainee pilot for Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus

He resigned from the company in January 2005, and briefly worked for Virgin Atlantic before joining British Airways in May.

Mr Walsh became chief executive of the airline that October, succeeding Rod Eddington.

The former pilot presided over BA until 2011, a turbulent time for the airline industry as it dealt with continued fallout from 9/11 and the financial crisis.   

This period saw several BA disasters, including an IT shutdown in 2017 which left 75,000 bank holiday passengers stranded, and a bitter dispute with pilots’ pay which brought huge disruption to passengers in September last year.

The dispute saw 3,000 pilots go on strike, causing sweeping cancellations and costing the airline £121million in one of the most damaging periods in the airline’s 100-year history.

The industrial action came a year after hackers stole the personal data of half-a-million BA customers in a breach which led to a £183million fine.      

BA cut staff numbers by 6,000 between 2008 and 2010 with Mr Walsh calling striking cabin crew ‘dysfunctional’ and claiming some staff were ‘out of touch with reality’. 

In 2011, British Airways joined forces with Spanish airline Iberia in a £5 billion merger to create IAG. Mr Walsh saw his salary rise from £735,000 to £825,000 following the merger and in 2015 it was reported that his total pay was almost £5million.

He was reported to have received pay and bonuses of just under £4million in 2017, up 60 per cent from £2.46million in 2016.  

From his position at IAG, Walsh was said to hold much of the power for finances at BA – and some blamed him when a computer meltdown hit 75,000 air passengers in 2017.

Mr Walsh had insisted that rather than ‘cost-cutting’ the drastic measures taken under his tenure were more akin to ‘efficiency’. 

He announced in January this year he would be stepping down from the role in March, but later opted to delay his retirement in order to guide the airline through the pandemic.    








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