Airlines that had trouble filling positions once travel restrictions from the epidemic were eased last year are now urging newly hired staff to take unpaid leave, reviving a practice that was common in the aviation sector for many years prior to the pandemic.
Before the summer rush, when airlines will be under pressure to deliver a reliable operation after a chaotic season the previous year, both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have already started to offer unpaid leave as a strategy to temporarily decrease personnel overheads.
British Airways, which has its hub at Heathrow Airport, is reportedly giving its cabin crew the entire month of April off without pay before the summer schedule picks up in May.
However, it’s interesting to note that British Airways has entered into “wetlease” contracts with other airlines, such as Titan Airways and Oneworld member Finnair, under which people and aircraft are provided to operate flights on British Airways’ behalf.
In the case of Finnair, the Helsinki-based airline said on Wednesday that, starting on March 24, it would lease four Airbus A320 aircraft to British Airways for a period of one year, together with personnel and maintenance services.
The aircraft will support BA’s short-haul European network operations, which raises the possibility that the airline is still having trouble finding pilots and aircraft to fill other positions.
Hiring staff on seasonal contracts is the primary substitute for unpaid leave, albeit it can occasionally be difficult to retain training qualifications and experience.
British Airways received criticism for changing employee contracts during the epidemic so that workers might be made to take unpaid time off in the middle of the winter or other slower travel seasons.