British Airways chief executive Álex Cruz has warned that the company’s survival is at stake amid the continuing COVID-19 crisis.
In an internal memo circulated to BA staff on Friday, Cruz hinted that the national carrier will be grounding planes and looking to make redundancies in an attempt to weather the drop in demand.
The message, titled ‘the survival of British Airways’, was circulated to outlets by BA staff.
“Please do not underestimate the seriousness of this for our company,” read Cruz’s message.
It warns that the unfolding crisis is one “of global proportions like no other we have known”, more significant for the viability of the airline than SARS, 9/11, or the GFC.
Plunging demand for air travel has spelt disaster for low-cost and regional operators in the UK.
The outbreak has been largely to blame for the collapse of Flybe, as well as causing stocks in Norwegian to tumble by roughly 80 per cent.
However, Cruz’s message shows that larger flag carriers like BA are not immune to the crisis.
Along with Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus, BA forms part of consortium International Airlines Group (IAG).
Despite pointing out IAG’s relatively strong Q4 posting for last year, Cruz said that the airline was under “immense pressure”, and would have to “react fast and definitively in response to the worsening situation”.
The letter also made it clear that BA is in talks with union representatives, ahead of expected redundancies.
The news comes as the EU has relaxed state aid rules designed to curtail anti-competitive practices.
European airlines including Lufthansa and Air France have approached their national governments for support.
British Airlines is expected to do the same in coming weeks.