The boss of British Airways told MPs people are “still afraid of travelling”, as he defended the airline’s decision to cut up to 12,000 jobs.
Chief executive Alex Cruz said the coronavirus pandemic has “devastated our business” and the carrier is “still fighting for our own survival”.
He told the Commons’ Transport Select Committee the airline is operating around a quarter of its normal schedule and “fewer flights means fewer people required to actually service them”.
He said: “As CEO of British Airways, I have to take responsibility. I cannot ignore the situation. I had to act incredibly fast.
“I deeply, deeply regret that way too many loyal and hardworking colleagues of mine are having to leave our business, and I understand why MPs are concerned.”
In April, British Airways announced plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs, representing nearly 30% of its workforce.
Mr Cruz said he is “completely dedicated and focused” on protecting the remaining 30,000 jobs.
He went on: “People are still afraid of travelling.
“Of course, we are having weekly changes, as you know, to the quarantine list. We don’t have a testing solution yet. And still our customers are paying APD (air passenger duty) even just to fly on domestic regional flights.
“So the overall situation is quite challenging, and this is why we are taking every measure possible to make sure that we can actually make it through this winter.”
Mr Cruz said British Airways is burning through an average of £20 million of cash per day.
British Airways pilots voted in July to accept a package including job and pay cuts aimed at avoiding a larger number of redundancies.
Mr Cruz told the committee unions representing non-pilot workers initially “decided not to engage with us”, but agreements have been reached which are being voted on by staff.
The terms of the deals would involve “some amendments to the existing contracts” but “no need whatsoever to issue new contracts”, he said.
For cabin crew, the “maximum pay impact including basic pay and the majority of the allowances is 15%”, Mr Cruz said.
Unions claim the airline had threatened to take a “fire and rehire” scheme involving remaining employees being given worse terms and conditions if no agreement was reached.
Asked by committee chair Huw Merriman if this so-called fire and rehire approach is “now off the table”, Mr Cruz replied: “We have reached agreements in principle with the majority of the areas.”
Speaking after the evidence session, Unite assistant general secretary Howard Beckett claimed Mr Cruz had “misled” MPs.
He said: “There are still too many BA workers facing threats to their wages and working life. These threats should be withdrawn today.
“MPs and the select committee need to be aware that Alex Cruz’s comments to the committee earlier are not entirely correct.
“To be clear, the fire and rehire threat still hangs over some BA workers.”