When livelihoods are at stake, you’d think businesses could work together to support a greater good. In the case of proposed UK airline bailouts, you’d also be wrong. By all accounts, proposals and ideas to stabilize the UK airline industry are playing out like a Greek drama, with modern day, daytime soap twists. Villains, profiteers, backstabbing, and a few love stories – it’s all there.

The Story So Far

The UK Government is mulling plans to provide sweeping financial support to airlines in the form of a large credit facility, and potentially even equity stakes.

British Airways parent company IAG made it clear from the very beginning – they don’t want bailouts. They also then made it abundantly clear that if any are going around, they’d like one anyway.

And then they blurred it all, crossing messages, when IAG Chief Willie Walsh said balance sheets were so good, they didn’t need the bailouts, at the same time British Airways CEO Alex Cruz noted that cost reductions were necessary to ensure the airlines survival.

Bonuses have been axed for British Airways employees, yet IAG and British Airways executives were paid bonuses this year in a year, as reward for near record setting profits.

Instant irony.

Ahead of their ultimate collapse,  Ryanair, British Airways and parent company IAG were adamant that the UK government shouldn’t bailout Flybe, including legal threats. Flybe’s collapse resulted in a roughly $100m windfall of Flybe’s take off and landing slots, which were awarded entirely to BA without bidding. Funny how that works.

No bailout for thee, but if a bailout is going, hopefully funds for me.

Virgin Atlantic has made it clear from the beginning that access to credit resources would be welcomed, and in reality – likely essential for the airlines long term survival.

The airline was only just beginning to turn a corner after years of rough finances, but with a clear position and early decisive moves from leadership, they appear to be the only airline banding together from the board room to the break room.


Despite these quarrels across the various airlines, differences sounded as if they were being put aside as signs of a prolonged slowdown emerged. British Airways may have been duplicitous and had ulterior motives, but at least they were clever enough to keep the cards out of sight.

Just as it was all about to go right, enter proverbial drunk uncle EasyJet, who got a little too excited about it all.

In the middle of bailout and credit opportunity talks, EasyJet dished out dividends amounting to greater than £170 million, including £60 million directly to billionaire founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou, who founded the airline using dough from his family’s shipping fortune.

No doubt, the £60 million windfall will help the family, presently worth over £1.2 billion to weather these times. #thoughtsandprayers

Which leads the richest of all plot twists in this epic drama, EasyJet employees.

At the same time EasyJet was asking the government for cash, while handing out millions in cash to billionaires, the airline pushed a new cabin crew agreement which removed free cabin crew meals, nixed pay rises and created unfavorable long term conditions for staff.

This lead to the plot twist not even Hollywood could’ve imagined. Over 27,000 EasyJet staff and counting have signed a petition asking the government NOT to bail out the airline, unless they removed the awful new conditions.

This is labor dispute is now a fundamental hold up in proposed government action.

Yes, the very people whose jobs were at risk found the airline so abhorrent, they would’ve rather lost out personally than seen the airline be rewarded with government funds for such awful behavior. Talk about moral building…

All signs point to the government finding a solution to provide the credit facilities needed for each airline to survive these times, and GSTP hopes whole heartedly that every one of these airlines does. They each play a vital role in the market which creates competitive fares, new and exciting ways to fly and the only thing which makes you richer – travel.

With all that said, popcorn is at the ready as the Greek drama twists and turns.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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4 Comments

  1. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. It seems that Virgin is the only airline that can find their uh – rear end – with both hands. The rampant greed on the part of BA is no real surprise, sadly. BA has been run like the flag carrier of some banana republic for years. If LHR wasn’t slot constrained, BA would have sank years ago due to monumental managerial ineptitude. Perhaps if their upper management had offered to take a haircut on their compensation there might have been a sense of shared sacrifice, but if they did that it just wouldn’t be the modern British Airways.

  2. The contrast between the excellent service I have experienced with Virgin and the service from others here is notable BUT only Best Avoided provide a service so Beyond Abysmal in it’s totality, with; average fares; repeated serious IT failures; repeated serious industrial relations failures; repeated attempts to dodge consumer rights law; repeated additional charges, even for customers paying thousands for their tickets,; repeated multi £BILLION profits AND shareholder dividends; repeated failures to adequately clean their cabins (bed bugs even after the crew have reported it anyone); repeated cuts in on board amenities including catering despite multiple relaunches; repeated skimping on cabin and aircraft spec; repeated failure to maintain cabins and IFE (14hrs to south America with no entertainment and no warning anyone?)

    that I choose to #FlyAbBA and pray that either a competitive slot distribution system that takes some account of the service delivered is introduced OR Bloody Awful go bankrupt and are nationalised temporarily. If the second then preferably before the current executive have had the opportunity to further denude this once proud brand of it’s financial assets and reputation.

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