British Airways might face a “summer of discontent,” according to a cabin crew union that represents the vast majority of the airline’s flight attendants. Chief executive Sean Doyle must “move beyond well-meaning platitudes” to fix the situation, the union warns.
To deal with post-pandemic workforce shortages, the carrier has canceled thousands of flights throughout the summer, and Doyle has begun a massive shakeup of key management players in an attempt to fix problems at the troubled airline.
In a scathing memo sent to cabin crew on Thursday, the BASSA union said: “Let’s face it, no crystal ball is needed to see that things are not going well at British Airways.”
Doyle has had a lot of support from the cabin staff so far, but their patience is wearing thin.
“Vital staff are missing everywhere, and the customer experience is not what it was or should be, as the airline’s recovery is hampered by both staff and product shortages combined with endless IT failures.”
“It would be easier to feel sympathy (for British Airways) if all of these were not self-inflicted but they were,” the memo continues.
In recent days, BA’s head of customer experience, Tom Stevens, stepped down after only one year in the post, and the head of IT was also removed, while chief operations officer Jason Mahoney’s responsibilities were curtailed.
Many of the airline’s current troubles, according to the BASSA union, are the result of massive epidemic job losses implemented by deposed previous CEO Alex Cruz.
“How management got it so wrong is a mystery but they did. Passengers have come flooding back but we simply no longer have the resources to carry them,” the memo continues.
According to the union, “painfully sluggish” recruitment is due to low pay that fails to attract candidates. British Airways said there has been a lot of interest in cabin crew positions, but security verification requirements are slowing things down.
However, the airline has revealed that it is having trouble filling a number of ‘below wing’ ground-based positions.
“Sean Doyle is undoubtedly trying to change things for the better but that must go beyond well-meaning words, into well-meaning and visible actions,” the memo warns.
Due to the escalating cost of living crisis, BASSA has already requested that a pay raise slated for later this year be brought early, as well as an earlier review of pay rates.
The union also claims that “major components” of a negotiated contract between the airline and cabin staff that establishes working conditions have yet to be implemented, and that the reasons for the delays are “wearing fairly thin.”
The union claims that cabin staff can’t afford to buy food in certain high-cost destinations because of a system of tax-free allowances.
Earlier this year, the union which represents check-in staff, gate agents and other ground-based frontline workers warned passengers of a “summer of chaos”.
In an open letter to Doyle in February, the GMB union said, “Moral is at an all-time low after BA’s disgraceful attack on workers during the epidemic.”
In the case of future ‘disruption,’ the airline has begun training office-based middle management as cabin crew, check-in employees, and luggage handlers.