British Airways has warned staff today that it could make job cuts and ground a number of planes as the coronavirus outbreak continues to send the airline industry into turmoil.

As reported by The Guardian, BA’s chief executive, Alex Cruz, said in an internal global memo to employees that the airline would be “parking aircraft in a way we never have before” after the drop in demand was compounded by the shock US travel ban from Europe announced on Wednesday night.

Cruz told staff that coronavirus was “a crisis of global proportions like no other we have known”, in the message seen by the Reuters news agency.

He warned staff that layoffs were coming, “perhaps for a short period, perhaps longer term”. The company is in discussions with trade unions to outline its cash position and look at where they can secure jobs.

He added in the memo: “Please do not underestimate the seriousness of this for our company.” 

BA has already cut hundreds of flights from its winter schedule, mainly to Europe, although it has yet to confirm what further flights will be axed in coming weeks.

Lufthansa, which is the European airline with the most flights directly affected by the US ban, is to ask the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, to intervene, according to reports in the Handelsblatt newspaper.

Lufthansa is said to be considering a range of options to deal with the crisis, including the temporary suspension of most flights across its network.

Air France-KLM are continuing to operate some flights to the US and have yet to confirm what further measures they are taking.

In the UK, where the regional carrier Flybe collapsed after the outbreak of coronavirus, fears that the wider aviation industry could follow have been raised further, with news of job cuts at Edinburgh Airport. The Unite trade union warned that Edinburgh, following Southampton airport, was on the brink of collapse without government help.

Norwegian is in talks with its government for urgent aid to ensure its survival. The Oslo government slashed air taxes on Friday but the airline said it was not enough. Its chief executive, Jacob Schram, said: “We need exact measures to strengthen our liquidity in the short term immediately.”

The airline, which operates long-haul, low-cost transatlantic flights, on Thursday announced it would be laying off up to half of its staff during the crisis. It has also cut about 4,000 flights.

Image credits: British Airways media pack

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