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Coronavirus-hit British Airways ‘to suspend 36,000 after grounding flights'

Around 36,000 British Airways staff are set to be suspended as the airline fights for survival amid the coronavirus crisis, according to reports.

BA is understood to have brokered a deal with trade union Unite which will see 80 per cent of cabin crew, ground staff, engineers and head office workers put on leave.

No employees are thought to be in line for redundancy, however, following 10 days of talks – though the deal has yet to be fully signed off, reports the BBC.

However, it is thought the agreement may be finalised later today.

The airline has grounded much of its 330-strong fleet during the crisis, with the expected deal to affect all staff at Gatwick and London City Airport.

British Airways is set to suspended 36,000 staff after talks with trade union Unite (Image: Getty Images)

The former’s North Terminal was closed on Wednesday while the South Terminal is now only operating from 2pm and 10pm.

While data from FlightStats showed just 33 flights were scheduled at the West Sussex airport on Tuesday.

Suspended employees will be most likely eligible for the Government’s Covid-19 job retention scheme, which covers 80 per cent of of each salary.

Gatwick’s North Terminal was closed on Wednesday (Image: REUTERS)

But with the support capped at a maximum of £2,500 a month, the airline has had to thrash out a deal with pilots who have agreed to take a 50 per cent pay cut for two months.

Call centre staff and non-live operatives are not being suspended and will continue to receive full pay following the union talks – it is understood.

A source told The Sun : “Negotiations have been tough but there is an acknowledgement at BA and the union that these are unprecedented times.”

British Airways CEO Alex Cruz has admitted the crisis is worse than 9/11 (Image: Getty)

The decision to suspend a large proportion of its workforce, despite BA parent company International Airlines Group in a much better financial position than many competitors, shows the extent the industry has been hit by travel bans.

Last week, the airline even  admitted the virus is threatening its very survival, with chief executive Alex Cruz having written to all 45,000 employees admitting it was worse than the 2008 crash, SARS or 9/11.

IAG chief Willie Walsh, however, has stressed he has not applied for a government bail-out but the company has announced three-quarters of flights will be cut over the next two months.

Empty EasyJet desks at Liverpool John Lennon Airport on Merseyside

Airlines are predicted to lose a combined £32.3billion over the next three months, according to the International Air Transport Association.

Refunding tickets for cancelled flights is rapidly eating away at cash, with many Virgin Atlantic and Easyjet staff having been suspended for two and three months, respectively.

In a particularly drastic turn airline Norwegian which is temporarily laying off 90 per cent of its workforce – amounting to around 7,300 people.

Hundreds of Brits were left stuck in Peru after the South American went on lockdown this week, forcing BA to run government repatriation flights.

Hundreds of thousands of people are stuck around the world, with a number of UK airlines agreeing to similar rescue measures.

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Coronavirus outbreak

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has pledged to set aside £75million for the repatriation flights.

Alice Nuttall, from Nantwich, told the Daily Mail, those being rescued from abroad were asked to pay a £250 repatriation fee.

The 21-year-old said she “burst into tears” after arriving back in the UK.


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