Coronavirus: British Airways scales back operations as new lockdown begins

British Airways will reduce its operations during November and will furlough “many more” staff due to the new lockdown in England, Sky News has learned.

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% of wages and employers responsible only for pension and national insurance contributions.

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

“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 into and out of the UK for work, education and other reasons stipulated by the UK government can continue to do so,” it said.

BA’s owner International Airlines Group – which also owns Iberia, Aer Lingus, Vueling and Level – had already said last month that due to the “high uncertainty of the current environment”, its capacity in the fourth quarter of 2020 would be no more than 30% of that a year earlier.

The carrier, along with other UK airlines, has cut thousands of jobs as it struggles to cope with the impact of the pandemic and the restrictions imposed by governments around the world.

Trade body Airlines UK has appealed to the government for sector specific support, this week writing to Mr Sunak asking for access to additional loans and a 12-month suspension of Air Passenger Duty.

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