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British Airways pilots to be paid less than budget rivals at easyJet

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British Airways pilots are set to be paid less than their budget airline counter­parts at easyJet under sweeping reforms to the UK flag carrier’s short-haul operation at Gatwick airport.

Industry insiders say junior BA ­captains will be paid less than £100,000 a year under the new deal, less than the £108,000 starting salary paid to their peers at easyJet.

The pay cuts are part of a radical plan by the carrier to balance the books at Gatwick as the airline emerges from the pandemic.

A new operating entity will be set up to run BA short-haul services at Britain’s second-biggest airport, in effect franchising operations to a ring-fenced subsidiary of BA.

New working practices will replicate those employed at low-cost airlines such as easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air, allowing BA’s Gatwick operation to significantly reduce its costs during the typically leaner winter months.

Plans for a budget airline, dubbed “BA Lite” by some commentators, leaked out almost a fortnight ago, sparking speculation that BA was poised to launch a new budget brand.

But this weekend BA hit back at suggestions of a “no frills” service. A spokesman said services will remain British Airways branded and customers will “continue to benefit from the same full standard of service”.

The spokesman added: “British Airways is continuing to lose money at Gatwick and has done for over 30 years. We cannot afford to keep doing this. This is about creating a sustainable platform from which to rebuild BA’s London ­Gatwick operation. If this isn’t achieved, BA will not serve the London Gatwick short-haul market.

“British Airways pilots are competitively paid and their base salaries are also part of a generous package with extras like an industry-leading pension. Our proposal for the new subsidiary maintains many of these benefits and an associated career progression into the mainline business. The pay and scheduling we have proposed is superior to other contracts currently being offered in the market place.

“Pilot savings are only one element of the savings proposed by the new ­subsidiary operation, among other plans required to turn this business around.”

Balpa, the pilots union, is understood to have accepted the changes and recommended its members support them in a ballot that is scheduled this month.

Unite, which represents cabin and ground crew, which will also be affected, have yet to agree to the reforms.

If the changes get the go-ahead, BA intends to run up to 17 Airbus A320 ­aircraft out of Gatwick next summer. It stopped running short-haul flights from the Sussex airport because of the ­pandemic.

Industry insiders said that the base salary of an Airbus captain will start at £73,000 and rise to £90,000 over 12 years under BA deal for Gatwick. They will receive a further £30 for every hour that they fly. Based on flying 800 hours a year, this means the BA pilots’ gross salary will be between £97,000 and £114,000.

By contrast, easyJet pilots receive between £108,000 to £148,000 plus variable pay of £34 per sector – rather than per hour, sources added.

Balpa has obtained a key concession from BA, however. Under the terms and conditions of the deal, the new operation will be limited in where it can fly. It will not be able to service routes to Sub-Saharan Africa or across the Atlantic, The Daily Telegraph understands.

BA’s spokesman said: “Existing BA pilots will have the choice of joining the new subsidiary, there is no requirement for them to leave the mainline business. We hope the pilot community choose to support this proposal, creating jobs and keeping the BA short-haul brand at Gatwick.

“Time is now critical and if BA is to launch an operation for next summer, decisions in relation to slots, aircraft and other critical resources are ­imminent.”

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