British Airways announced in its Q1 results that it plans to cut capacity by 5% to offer more stable operations over the summer. The decision puts the airline at 80% of pre-pandemic levels, still further away from where it hoped given resurgent demand for travel.
Summer in jeopardy
It’s been a challenging year for British Airways, with the flag carrier facing industry pressures and its own unique set of issues. The number one concern is a staffing shortage, with BA especially struggling to fill roles in ground services and other maintenance positions, described as “below the wing” roles by IAG CEO Luis Gallego.
Moreover, the few that the carrier has managed to hire are now stuck waiting for security clearances, which BA estimates is taking 20% longer due to COVID delays in the government. British-based low-cost giant easyJet has complained of the same trouble, which is hurting attempts to prevent summer chaos.
Like so many others, BA’s decision to let go of thousands of employees is coming back to bite them. Photo: British Airways
All of this has resulted in the airline once again cutting its summer 2022 schedule, this time to 80% of 2019 capacity. While this will hurt the bottom line, it will help avoid another collapse of operations faced on a nearly-monthly basis since February. IT issues have been another major contributor to meltdowns in recent months, with 1,400 flights wiped out in April alone.
Short-haul taking the hit
British Airways passengers flying within Europe will be the ones taking the hit one more time. The carrier has moved to ax more short-haul routes and frequencies through the summer in a bid to protect high-yielding long-haul flights. However, not all hope is lost for those booked to fly with the UK’s flag carriers.
The first move is to open a temporary crew base in Madrid, home to sister airline Iberia. The extra base will slightly reduce reliance on London and ease pressure during the peak travel periods of July through September. If successful, the base may even become a regular for the airline.
British Airways is looking to beef up its short-haul fleet for the next few months. Photo: Jake Hardiman | Simple Flying
The second decision has been to wet lease (crew included) aircraft from Finnair and Titan Airways. British will take up four Airbus A321s from the former and two Boeing 757s from the latter to maintain its current schedule. So if you suddenly find yourself in the absence of dark blue, it’s because Finnair or Titan is operating the flight entirely under a BA number.
Profit on the horizon
Despite the last three months, Gallego assured investors that Europe’s fourth-biggest airline group will be profitable by the second quarter of 2022 and maintain that for the entire fiscal year. This comes on the heels of a €754 million ($794.7mn) loss in Q1 due to operational concerns and COVID cases. For now, all eyes are on British Airways in the summer of 2022.
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