British Airways Axes Entire Hong Kong Crew (Majority Without Any Notice) Before Closing Base In October

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British Airways has engaged is a particularly despicable fashion this week when they fired 57 of the 85 Hong Kong based Flight Attendants without any advance notice ahead of the Hong Kong Base closure next month.

BA will close it’s Hong Kong cabin crew base at the end of October with the remaining flight attendants being terminated at the time their contract expires at this point.

The flights (two daily) will then be serviced entirely by London, UK based cabin crew which is obviously a huge difference in the most negative sense compared to Hong Kong crew.

But the service aspect and passenger experience aside, the way in which this matter was handled is absolutely outrageous on part of British Airways. Who fires long term employees from one day to the other just because local law permits them to do it?

The South China Morning Post (access here) made this matter front page news today.

British Airways axed its entire Hong Kong crew on Wednesday ahead of the closure of its local base next month, the airline’s head office has confirmed.

Unionists said 57 of the 85 Hong Kong-based flight attendants were laid off immediately, with another 24 to finish at the end of next month when their contracts expired. They slammed the move as “inhumane” and “ugly”.

Britain’s national airline, which has been flying to the city for 82 years, said it would close its Hong Kong cabin crew base at the end of October. The carrier operates two daily flights from Hong Kong to London Heathrow.

“While we are really grateful to our crew in Hong Kong for all of their hard work and dedication over the years, our strategic model going forward is to operate this route entirely with London-based crew,” a company spokeswoman said, implying flights would not be affected.

What support? Someones employment is being terminated effective immediately, apart from a payment which like won’t be a lot and doesn’t last long in a city such as Hong Kong there is very little ‘support’ they can provide. Why wasn’t the notice given a few months ago if it was well known that the Hong Kong crew base will be closed?

The notion that this won’t affect flights and the service quality is laughable. How many UK crew can speak Cantonese and have a work ethic similar to those that HK crew exhibits. Service of London based crew is generally terrible, no buts about it.

The article goes on:

Staff were given a letter at a meeting with management on Wednesday, informing them their employment had been terminated with immediate effect, association general secretary Carol Ng Man-yee said. She said they were only told about the meeting on Tuesday. …

“It is betraying the staff members who have been so loyal to the company.

“It would be naive for the company to think they can stop us from staging protests if they can fire us all quickly. There are still many ways of resistance. And they have not seen anything yet,” warned Ng, who was seeking a meeting with management in the next few days. …

Ng said permanent staff were given until Saturday to accept compensation terms. If they did not agree in time, they would only get the minimum required under Hong Kong labour laws. …

Parent company International Airlines Group (IAG) had highlighted BA’s Hong Kong to Heathrow service as an underperforming route at its half-year financial earnings meeting with analysts.

Chief financial officer Enrique Dupuy de Lome singled out Hong Kong as Cathay Pacific, which flies five times a day to Heathrow, was having an adverse affect on revenue. …

BA’s closure of the cabin crew base in Hong Kong was identical to a move it made in Singapore a few years back. According to Ng, Singapore-based staff were given six months’ notice about the plan.

Singapore labor laws are more stringent then those in Hong Kong, allowing companies to get away with such despicable acts. It’s certainly a question if a company such as BA doesn’t hold itself to a higher standard than this but I guess their actions in this matter speak loud enough.

It comes at no surprise that British Airways under performs compared to Cathay Pacific on the London route. I don’t understand who would fly BA in the first place when five Cathay flights are available daly which offers vastly superior service, cabin interior and departure times. British Airways didn’t invest sufficiently in their product for years, even decades which resulted in their bread and butter product (Business Class) on this route to be much inferior compared to the competition.

Conclusion

I would expect disruptions and an even worse inflight experience than it’s already the case. Even more reason to look at a different carrier on the Hong Kong – London route to ensure a smooth and comfortable journey. Both Cathay Pacific as well as Virgin Atlantic are providing very good products on this route, definitely a preferred option.

It’s every companies duty to react to market requirements and make decision about downsizing and restructuring their corporate and employment structure. That doesn’t mean however to handle it in a fashion as demonstrated here and to exhibit a bit more sensibility for your employees. British Airways overseas crews have consistently provided better service to passengers over decades and the company would not be able to get away with this at home and in most other countries so again, why not give proper notice to the employees in order for them to find another job with sufficient advance time.

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