British Airways puts more employees on furlough despite summer season

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The flag carrier of the United Kingdom, British Airways is returning employees back on furlough. The move comes as international borders remain closed due to the ongoing pandemic.

“Like many companies we’re using the furlough scheme to protect jobs during this unprecedented crisis,” a British Airways spokesperson told AeroTime News on June 11, 2021. 

It is understood a large number of the airline’s workforce were already on furlough. The latest development means that some people who were brought back from furlough will now go back onto the government wage support scheme, according to the airline.

“However, it’s vital the government follows its risk-based framework to re-open international travel as soon as possible, putting more low-risk countries, like the US, on its green list at the next available opportunity,” British Airways spokesperson added.

According to the UK government’s official advice, travelers are encouraged not to visit amber and red list countries. To date, there are a total of 50 countries included in the red list, while the amber list contains 177 countries as well as territories, including the United States. The green list, on the other hand, contains only 11 countries. This means that the travel industry in the United Kingdom is currently almost at the standstill. 

“You should not travel to amber or red list countries and territories,” read the government’s statement.

The amber list, which is the most active category, contains countries that require travelers to undergo self-isolation for 10 days upon return to the UK. The green list exempts travelers from quarantine on return to the UK and any international travelers that transit through red list countries are refused entry into the UK.

British Airways had started bringing back people from furlough ahead of the May 17, 2021, international travel restart. However, the affected airlines in the United Kingdom, including British Airways, called Britain’s travel restart “inadequate” and said they failed to encourage travel. 

“If a meaningful reopening is not possible during the summer… then targeted economic support will be essential to ensure UK airlines are able to reach the point when a restart is possible, in order to protect many tens of thousands of jobs,” wrote Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade in a letter to finance minister Rishi Sunak.

UK airlines urge government to reopen transatlantic travel

The transatlantic market is the backbone for long-haul operators in the United Kingdom, as it is one of the most lucrative parts of the air travel market because it attracts business travellers willing to pay for premium seats. However, the aviation industry has been unsuccessfully pushing the transatlantic reopening for more than a year.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic were calling the country’s government to establish an air bridge between the United Kingdom and the United States even before the UK’s international air travel resumption that started on May 17, 2021. 

“We at BA and Virgin (VAH) connected the UK with over 30 cities in the US directly before the pandemic. Now we are operating only a handful of cities with significantly reduced frequencies. Not opening up the UK economy is costing the UK about £23 million per day,” British Airways CEO Sean Doyle wrote in a statement seen by the Business Traveller. 

Ahead of the G7 Summit, UK and US airlines chiefs sought swiffer action to ease the travel restrictions for the transatlantic service by writing a joint statement for the US president Joe Biden and the UK prime minister Boris Johnson. 

“As President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson meet this week, they must address the transatlantic ban that is separating our two low-risk countries at a major cost to our citizens and economies. We urgently need them to look at the science and base their judgements on proper risk analysis, allowing us all to benefit from the protection offered by our successful vaccine rollouts,” Doyle wrote in a statement. 

“We urge Prime Minister Johnson and President Biden to lead the way in opening the skies, making it a top priority at the G7 Summit. Customers, families, and businesses need to book and travel with confidence. After 15 months of restrictions, the time to act is now,” CEO of Virgin Atlantic Shai Weiss added.

In a response, after a meeting at the G7 Summit on June 10, 2021, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson said they were committed to resume travel between the UK and US as soon as possible by launching a joint task force to explore options for reinstating flights. 

“We will establish a joint UK-US Experts’ Working Group, which will share expertise and provide recommendations to leaders on the return of safe and sustainable international travel, demonstrating the commitment of both countries to tackle COVID-19 together,” read the joint UK and US statement.

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