British Airways owner IAG has said it will now suspend 90 per cent of its flights, up from the 75 per cent previously announced, as the airline industry looks to protect itself against the coronavirus outbreak.
IAG joins other UK airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet, who have both suspended all or almost all of their flights for April and May due to stringent travel bans.
The decision comes as British Airways announced that it will be furloughing over 30,000 of its staff following successful negotiations with unions such as Unite.
Under this scheme, furloughed employees will receive 80 per cent of their base pay and of certain allowances. This agreement is subject to union ratification.
British Airways has also reached agreement with its 4,000 pilots to take four weeks of unpaid leave in April and May.
The dramatic steps show just how devastating the crisis has been for the industry, as IAG is widely considered one of the most robust of the world’s airlines.
Separately this week the firm has already announced the cancellation of its dividend as well as a new credit facility further securing its finances against the coronavirus shutdown.
It has however stood out from its counterparts in the UK airline industry by declining to join calls for state financial assistance.
Long-standing boss Willie Walsh is a vocal opponent of government aid for airlines, and has repeatedly said IAG will not be seeking help from the authorities.
The decision came as the UK’s largest airport Heathrow said that it would transition to single runway operations from next week.
A spokesperson said: Under this new operation, we will alternate which runway we use on a weekly basis and publish a new alternation schedule that will continue to provide local communities with respite periods.
“Although we are seeing significantly fewer flights at the moment, Heathrow will remain open so that we can continue to play a crucial role in helping to secure vital medical goods and food for the nation during this unprecedented epidemic.”
Airports have also been battered by the crisis, with London City having suspended all passenger operations and London Southend only set to open three days a week.
Industry bodies for both airlines and airports remain in talks with the government about sector-wide protections, despite Chancellor Rishi Sunak saying that aid will only be given as a “last resort” on an individual basis.