Internal documents reveal that British Airways is facing such a severe personnel shortage that it has put out a request for pilots and office-based staff to act as cabin crew for up to two and a half months.
BA’s CityFlyer subsidiary has urged pilots and other employees to join up for a program called ‘Take to the Skies,’ in which they will receive basic cabin crew training and serve as stand-ins.
The proposal is divisive because British Airways employed a similar approach in 2010 as part of a concerted effort to break a cabin staff strike over pay and conditions.
Cabin workers and pilots who crossed the picket line have had tense relations ever since.
The latest initiative has been sold as a way for employees to “meet new people in the business” and “travel to a wide range of destinations” while getting an insight into “what’s it is really like for our crew to do their job”.
Normally, participants in the program would only have to fly as cabin crew once every 90 days to maintain their licenses, but due to a severe manpower shortage, BA is asking employees to work full-time as cabin crew until the end of May.
In the future, the stand-in cabin crew may be asked to work full-time, such as in the event of industrial action.
Cabin crew and BA management are currently at odds over pandemic concessions that have now been made permanent.
Benefits such as disruption payments and free breakfasts in layover motels have been refused by the airline so far.
Pilots who sign up for the initiative will wear cabin crew uniforms instead of their regular uniform, but they will continue to receive their regular hourly rate.
According to sources, pilots have refused to participate in the initiative out of solidarity with cabin crew.’
After slashing its workforce at the height of the pandemic and despite a generous government support program that saw the airline-branded a “national disgrace” by lawmakers, British Airways is now in a race to bolster cabin crew numbers ahead of a busy summer.
The airline is trying to hire up to 3,000 cabin crew workers ahead of the summer season and is offering serving personnel a £300 incentive bonus for getting friends and family members to apply.
As an added bonus, new hires will have access to a substantially discounted concessional travel deal from the moment they start with BA, rather than the normal six months.