British Airways announced on Tuesday that it will cut 12,000 jobs as the coronavirus outbreak has grounded flights around the world.

International Airlines Group (IAG), the airline’s parent company, said it will make over a quarter of BA’s workers redundant as the majority of its fleet remains grounded due to the global pandemic. BA employs 45,000 people.

IAG’s statement said: “In light of the impact of COVID-19 on current operations and the expectation that the recovery of passenger demand to 2019 levels will take several years, British Airways is formally notifying its trade unions about a proposed restructuring and redundancy programme.”

The program will likely “affect most of British Airways’ employees and may result in the redundancy of up to 12,000 of them,” it added.

IAG suffered operating losses of €535 million (nearly $580 million), or 13%, in the first quarter of the year, caused mainly by BA’s battering by coronavirus. IAG said it expects the situation to worsen in the second quarter.

BA chief executive Alex Cruz wrote to employees: “In the last few weeks, the outlook for the aviation industry has worsened further and we must take action now.”

He added: “There is no Government bailout standing by for BA and we cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely.

“We do not know when countries will reopen their borders or when the lockdowns will lift, and so we have to reimagine and reshape our airline and create a new future for our people, our customers and the destinations we serve.”

BA employs around 4,500 pilots and 16,000 cabin crew.

Brian Sutton, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), said BA pilots and staff are “devastated” by the news.

“This has come as a bolt out of the blue from an airline that said it was wealthy enough to weather the COVID storm and declined any Government support.”

The union vowed to fight “to save every single” job lost.

After first appearing in China last December, the COVID-19 has spread to at least 185 countries and regions.

Data compiled by the US’ Johns Hopkins University shows worldwide infections surpassing 3.09 million with more than 215,000 deaths. Some 918,000 have recovered.

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