Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus: British Airways suspends all flights from Gatwick, furloughs more staff

Agencies/London, United Kingdom
Filed on November 5, 2020
FILE PHOTO: British Airways aircraft are seen stationary on the tarmac of London's Heathrow Airport in west London, August 12, 2005.

(Toby Melville)

The move follows a new national lockdown in the UK due to Covid-19.

British Airways will reduce its flight schedule this month after the UK government put further restrictions on leisure travel to try to curb the spread of coronavirus.

"Our focus is on keeping crucial air links open - bringing home the thousands of customers currently abroad, transporting vital goods, and ensuring people who are permitted to travel in and out of the UK for work, education and other reasons stipulated by the UK Government, can continue to do so," BA said in a statement.

BA said it would contact customers whose flights are cancelled to offer refund or rebooking options.

Sky News also reported that BA, part of the International Consolidated Airlines Group, would furlough more staff as a result of the changes.

Under new restrictions introduced in England on Thursday, overseas travel is permitted only for specific purposes such as work and study for the next four weeks.

The new boss of IAG warned last month he may have to strip even more costs from the business as a second wave of Covid-19 leaves its airlines staring at a bleak winter with very little travel.

The airline, which calls the restrictions a "blow to our hopes for the winter season", will ground more aircraft and suspend all flights from the UK's second biggest airport, Gatwick.

In a letter to staff seen by Sky News, BA management said: "We have made the difficult decision to further reduce our operation for the rest of November.

This means far fewer flights than we hoped for in November and means grounding more of our aircraft, including pausing all flights from Gatwick until December."

The airline said that would mean "moving many more colleagues, from both operational and support function areas on to the governments extended Job Retention Scheme".

It came as Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced the extension of the furlough scheme until the end of March - with the Treasury paying 80 per cent of wages and employers responsible only for pension and national insurance contributions.

British Airways will continue flights to repatriate customers abroad and for the movement of essential cargo, the letter seen by Sky News said.

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