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BA owner considers legal action against government quarantine plan – and Ryanair vows support

The chief executive of British Airways owner IAG says the company is considering legal action against the government’s quarantine plans – and one of BA’s biggest rivals says it would support him.

Willie Walsh was speaking days after the government announced a 14-day quarantine for arriving air passengers starting later this month, another obstacle for an aviation sector battered by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

The IAG chief executive told Sky’s Ian King Live programme that he is considering a legal challenge against the quarantine and is reviewing the situation with lawyers.

Willie Walsh led Aer Lingus, British Airways and later the expanded IAG parent firm
Image: Willie Walsh is chief executive of International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways

He said that the new rules would “torpedo” the airline’s chances of flying in July.

“We think it is irrational, we think it is disproportionate and we are giving consideration to a legal challenge to this legislation,” he added.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of BA’s rival Ryanair, has previously said the quarantine is “nonsense” and would be “useless”.

Following Mr Walsh’s appearance on Sky News, the Irish airline said in a statement: “Ryanair will support any legal action launched by IAG against this ineffective quarantine.”

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Mr Walsh said the industry was facing its “most difficult challenge”, saying British Airways flew only 485 passenger flights last month.

He added: “We did that by lunchtime on 1 May last year.”

It comes amid an increasingly bitter row between management and unions over the proposed loss of 12,000 jobs at the airline.

This prompted accusations from Unite union boss Len McCluskey that British Airways management was behaving like “industrial thugs”.

Mr McCluskey has called the move ‘”unlawful and immoral” following the company’s use of the government’s Job Retention Scheme.

Unite General Secretary Len McCluskey during the TUC Congress in Manchester
Union boss Len McCluskey criticises British Airways’ plans to cut thousands of jobs during the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Walsh said: “What we’re doing is consulting with the trade unions, with the elected representatives on potential job cuts.

“No decision has been taken in relation to actual redundancies.

“But what we have done is in compliance with the law – there’s a legal obligation on the company to submit these documents to the elected representatives, then to engage in consultations to give everybody an opportunity to try and reduce, mitigate, do anything we can to reduce the impact of the potential restructuring of the business.”

He added: “We want the trade unions to engage with the British Airways management team to represent the people working hard at BA to ensure the airline can have a future.”

Tail Fins of British Airways planes are seen parked at Heathrow airport as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, London, Britain, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Image: Many British Airways planes have been parked at Heathrow awaiting the return of normal operations

It comes a day after Sky News reported exclusively that British Airways had told staff its parent firm is burning through £178m of cash a week along with a warning that the airline does not have “an absolute right to exist”.

In a letter to staff seen by Sky News, BA chief executive Alex Cruz criticised the GMB and Unite unions, calling a campaign to take Heathrow landing slots away from BA “bizarre” and a threat to jobs.

Mr Cruz also criticised their refusal to attend talks to discuss the airline’s future.

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