The pay of British Airways cabin crew rose by 5 per cent last year despite the airline reporting record losses and other carriers cutting or freezing crew salaries.
Previously unpublished figures from the Civil Aviation Authority revealed that BA’s 12,000 crew were paid an average of £31,400 last year. This was 5 per cent up on the £29,900 the year before.
By comparison, Virgin Atlantic’s crew had their pay frozen at £14,400. Crew at bmi had a 6.5 per cent average reduction to £17,200, while Monarch and Thomas Cook, the charter airlines, cut crew pay by about 13 per cent.
The figures come as BA and Unite, the union that represents cabin crew, continue negotiations about a freeze, bonus cuts and changes to working practices.
BA, which lost £401 million last year and could lose more than £600 million this year, wants to reduce its cabin crew budget. It has already cut the number of crew on its long-haul aircraft and given hundreds voluntary redundancy.
Unite is unhappy with the proposed cuts and its members have voted for strike action. BA was affected by seven days of industrial action last month as thousands of cabin crew walked out. Unite has warned that if negotiations are unsuccessful there will be more action.
BA said that the strikes in March cost it £45 million and resulted in 200,000 fewer passengers flying with the airline.
Howard Wheeldon, senior strategist at BGC Partners, a City brokerage firm, said: “These figures tell a tale of woe for BA and all of BA’s staff have to play their part in the future survival of this airline. They are going to have to adapt and change and the picture may not be a pretty one for them.”
The airline industry has been hit hard by the recession, forcing carriers to reduce costs and ground flights. BA even warned that it was in a fight for survival and, although ticket sales are improving, the airline’s finances remain weak.
The CAA’s figures reveal that BA staff remain the best paid in the industry. Its pilots received a small pay rise last year, taking their average salaries to £108,400. This compared with a 10 per cent cut in pilot wages at easyJet, which paid an average of £64,500. Bmi also cut pilot pay with its average down 4.5 per cent to £74,300.
Thomas Cook Airlines reduced pilot pay by 19.3 per cent to £79,800 after holiday bookings fell during the recession.
BA declined to comment on the CAA figures and Unite was unavailable for comment. The CAA salary figures for 2009 include gross basic pay, overtime, flying bonuses and subsistence allowances.
• BAA lost nearly £4 million in revenues last month because of strikes at BA. Passenger numbers were down 200,000 to 8.2 million after seven days of industrial action, the airports operator said. Heathrow, where BA is the largest operator, lost 180,000 passengers. Based on landing charges and average retail figures, it is the equivalent of nearly £4 million in lost revenues. Despite the strike, traffic at Heathrow grew by 0.4 per cent compared with the same month last year, but would have been about 3.8 per cent without the action.