British Airways warned it could lose Heathrow landing slots amid jobs row

British Airways could be stripped of prized landing slots at Heathrow airport because it is cutting staff while still taking advantage of the taxpayer-backed furlough scheme, a minister has suggested.

Officials will review whether they can intervene in slot allocations at ­Europe’s busiest airport as BA plans to slash 12,000 jobs, Kelly Tolhurst, the aviation minister, told MPs. Warnings of state intervention drew a sharp rebuke from the airline’s boss Alex Cruz. Addressing staff, he said: “Every slot lost will lead to jobs in BA being permanently lost.”

British Airways has benefited from state subsidies for the wages of thousands of furloughed staff since global air travel collapsed due to Covid-19.

It has none the less launched a massive redundancy programme – while workers who survive the purge could reportedly face pay cuts of up to 60pc.

Huw Merriman, chairman of the transport select committee, tabled an urgent question for the Chancellor on the future of the airline industry. Rishi Sunak was unavailable to answer and sent Ms Tolhurst in his place. Ms Tolhurst urged airlines not to use the ­pandemic “as an excuse to slash terms and conditions” for staff.

Mr Merriman asked Ms Tolhurst whether her department will push the Civil Aviation Authority to “undertake an urgent review into reallocating ­lucrative landing slots at Heathrow from companies like British Airways, who indicate they are downsizing”.

Landing slots, which give an airline the right to take off and land at a certain time, can be worth tens of millions of pounds at Heathrow.

Ms Tolhurst replied: “We want airport landing and take-off slots to be used as effectively as possible for UK consumers. I want to ensure the slots allocation process encourages competition and provides connectivity, so this is something that I will be looking at.”

She said that the Government is currently legally prevented from intervening in the slots allocation process.

Ms Tolhurst said job cuts by BA, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic are “decisions which I regret”. Airlines focused on Britain are axing an estimated 22,500 roles to survive.

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