Coronavirus more serious for airline industry than 9/11 – BA boss

The coronavirus pandemic is more serious for the airline industry than 9/11 and the financial crash and jobs will be lost, the boss of British Airways has warned.

Against the backdrop of the escalating outbreak, Chief executive Alex Cruz said in a video message to staff: “It is a crisis of global proportions like no other we have known.”

“Please do not underestimate the seriousness of this for our company,” he added.

Mr Cruz also said jobs will be lost “perhaps for a short period, perhaps longer term” and that the company was in discussions with trade unions.

Aircraft would be grounded in a way that the airline has never had to do before, he said.

The hard-hitting message, headlined “the survival of British Airways”, came as airlines across the world cancel flights and cut costs to deal cope with plunging demand, ever-tighter travel restrictions and worried travellers opting to stay at home.

The industry is bracing itself for further airline failures following the collapse of regional operator Flybe and Norwegian Air moved to slash 4,000 flights and temporarily lay off half of its workforce.

Mr Cruz said BA, which along with Iberia and Aer Lingus is owned by IAG, was more resilient “than ever before” but said that the airline was under “immense pressure”.

“We will have to react fast and definitively in response to the worsening situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Alexandre de Juniac, the head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that industry losses now would be “probably above” the $113bn (£90bn) that it estimated a week ago, following Donald Trump’s decision to impose a 30-day ban on all travel to the US from continental Europe.

Mr de Juniac said; “We are asking all the governments who have put restrictions – and the US government particularly – to review the decision permanently to see whether they can alleviate or waive that decision – the sooner the better.”

The IATA has already urged governments to consider extending credit, reduce costs and cutting taxes for struggling airlines.

Mr de Juniac, a former Air France-KLM group chief executive, said: “If the drop is as significant, as deep, as we are seeing now, and if it lasts for more than two or three months, we will see some difficulties among airlines.

“Some of them will probably have financial difficulty, it will probably lead to a further consolidation.”

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