BA Cabin Crew Have Put Our Lives On The Line During Coronavirus. Now I Feel Betrayed

We’ve done 24-hour shifts on repatriation flights with no PPE, and our reward is facing redundancy.
Getty Editorial
Getty Editorial
HuffPost UK

I found out from BBC News that I have a one in four chance of losing my job.

It was only then spelled out in black and white, in a hastily written email from the CEO of British Airways, Alex Cruz, telling us 12,000 employees will be laid off. As if the typos and errors in such an important email weren’t encouraging enough on their own, I now have no idea what the future holds for my career.

Being crew really was a dream job for me. Before joining British Airways I worked in dead end call centre jobs, where I’d spend the day on Facebook and hoping no one would answer their phone so I wouldn’t have to read out the script I had to repeat hundreds of times a day. Anyone who has ever worked in a mindless office job will know how crushingly boring and soul-destroying it can be. As the days dragged and I lived for the weekend, I felt like I was wasting my life.

It’s a cliché, but ‘crewlife’ really is living a champagne lifestyle on a lemonade budget. The money is only okay, but no one does it for the pay – you do it for the perks. Travelling to exotic destinations, staying in five-star hotels, sipping kir royales by the pool and dancing til dawn in some tropical paradise, all while getting paid.

“I can’t help thinking this is a cynical ploy to take advantage of this global crisis to do what they’ve wanted to do for years.”

The only thing you had to do was chuck out a few chickens and beefs and after you got off the aircraft, you were pretty much on holiday. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my customers and treated everyone like royalty. I always did my best to represent the brand in the best light, and was a proven top performer with plenty of recognition from customers and my employer. But what was the point of all that, when I’m now treated like nothing more than a cost to be cut at the first opportunity?

British Airways looked to be one of the airlines with the best shot of keeping jobs. I can’t help thinking this is a cynical ploy to take advantage of this global crisis to do what they’ve wanted to do for years: get rid of the expensive legacy crew and have everyone on the same contract to save money. Or maybe it’s a bluff to get the government to cough up some bailout money. Either way, staff like me are being, at worst, used as ploys, and at best, nothing more than numbers.

I always knew big companies like British Airways were ruthless and ultimately don’t give a damn about their staff – but it really galls me that over the past few months I have put my health and my life at risk, exposing myself and my family to a deadly virus to operate repatriation flights. Recently, I operated a repatriation flight to Goa with barely any PPE onboard – it was a 24-hour duty straight there, pick up the passengers and straight back. I felt like I’d been hit by a truck and it took days to recover.

“I was willing to do it because it felt like a privilege to bring these stranded British citizens home... But now I feel like an absolute mug.”

I was willing to do it because it felt like a privilege to bring these stranded British citizens home. One passenger grabbed my hand and said “thank you so much for picking us up,” and I was humbled by her gratitude. But now I feel like an absolute mug for having done it at all. I laugh at my stupidity, that I actually felt like I was helping the company out. There was a lot of talk of us ‘all being in it together’. The truth was British Airways was making money operating these government-chartered flights, and putting gullible crew at risk in the process. Fast forward to now and I have to find out, through the six o’clock news, we all have a chance of getting the chop.

I’m angry, I’m worried, and I have no idea what I will do if I lose my job. This crisis is showing us that the aviation industry will never be the same again, if it even recovers at all. Many of us believe air travel will be transformed dramatically: scaled down and expensive. As one person put it bluntly on Twitter: “The days of Vicky Pollards flying are over”.

For now, I’m trying not to think about it and push those fears to the back of my mind, but I feel sorry for my friends and colleagues who will struggle with mortgages and children. Despite everything they’ve done for BA, the company has decided to pile even more stress and worry on an already beleaguered staff.

It feels downright malicious.

The author is a British Airways cabin crew worker, writing anonymously

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