British Airways Fires All Hong Kong-Based Cabin Crew

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Despite making a profit, British Airways has decided to close its outstation at Hong Kong by October 31, 2018. This won’t affect their two flights to and from Hong Kong, though it means 85 Hong Kong-based cabin crew are losing their jobs. British Airways has justified this change by saying that the Hong Kong base has been “commercially unviable for them”.

a large airplane at an airportBritish Airways Boeing 777 Hong Kong Airport

I’m quite surprised by this news, considering Hong Kong’s quite a big market for British Airways, and it makes sense for the airline to hire local workers as well. At the same time this makes sense. Having ground crew at Hong Kong means they’ll have to comply with Hong Kong’s labor laws and costs, which are ever-increasing, and the airline didn’t see this as a worthy investment.

At the same time my heart goes out to the 85 cabin crewmembers based in Hong Kong who were working for the airline. They were talked to in groups saying that they would no longer have their jobs. 60 of these people were on continuous pay contracts, which means they had no plans for changing jobs in the future. One of the workers being laid off was a flight attendant who had worked for the airline for 32 years.

It’s obvious that this news isn’t being met with smiles by the public, either. The general secretary of the airline’s cabin crew association in Hong Kong slammed the airline for “being inhumane and irresponsible toward the staff”, which I’m totally behind. This means a loss of certainty for them, though at the same time this isn’t the first time an airline has mass-laid off staff due to the closure of an outstation.

The workers are entitled to long service and severance payments by local law, but again that’s not much compensation.

What this means for passengers

British Airways said that their “strategic model going forward is to operate this route entirely with London-based crew”. Apart from that, there’s not much direct impact on consumers now. (I’m not sure how call centers will be affected.)

However, British Airways has stated that Hong Kong is a “consistently underperforming” route for the airline. It makes sense, since Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic both operate between the cities, and are generally perceived to be better airlines (Cathay Pacific operates six flights per day between the two cities, compared to British Airways’ two – and they’re in the same alliance, which means Cathay Pacific can cannibalise British Airways’ demand, since their frequent flyers can fly Cathay Pacific “guilt-free”).

British Airways currently flies an A380 and a 777 between Hong Kong and London. Due to the high-capacity nature of the A380, if the route is really underperforming, chances are that won’t last for much longer. My guess is that soon they’d transition to operating a 777 and a 787 between London and Hong Kong, both of which they have plenty of.

IMG_0181British Airways Airbus A380 Hong Kong Airport

Bottom Line

I’m not particularly happy with how British Airways handled the incident, as they’re laying off their crew off immediately – with prior closures in other destinations, crewmembers have had up to six months’ advance notice. At the same time, it’s easy for me to say this behind a keyboard.

If you’re flying British Airways between Hong Kong and London from November onwards and see a London-based crew operating the route, now you know why.

Any readers directly affected by this outstation closure?

(Credits to Phila at SCMP)

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