British Airways has begun discussions with unions over as many as 12,000 job cuts at the airline.
The proposed restructuring and redundancy programme is necessary as demand for travel is unlikely to reach levels seen in 2019 for several years, the airline said.
British Airways has already furloughed 22,626 of its 42,000 employees through the job retention scheme offered by the government.
In a letter to staff Alex Cruz, chief executive of British Airways, said: “There is no government bailout standing by for British Airways and we cannot expect the taxpayer to offset salaries indefinitely.
“Any money we borrow now will only be short-term and will not address the longer-term challenges we will face now.”
He added: “We are a strong, well-managed business that has faced into, and overcome, many crises in our hundred-year history.
“We must overcome this crisis ourselves, too.”
The decision was announced as British Airways-parent IAG revealed its financial results for the first quarter.
Total revenue declined by 13 per cent to €4.6 billion compared to €5.3 billion in the prior year period, IAG said.
Operating result before exceptional items was a loss of €535 million compared to a profit of €135 million last year.
In addition, IAG’s pre-tax profit was impacted by an exceptional charge of €1.3 billion resulting from the ineffectiveness of its fuel and foreign currency hedges for the rest of 2020 due to over-hedging.
Passenger capacity, expressed in terms of available seat kilometres, declined by 10.5 per cent in the quarter.
Passenger traffic in terms of revenue passenger kilometres declined by 15.2 per cent in the quarter, while the seat load factor declined by 4.3 points to 76.4 per cent.
IAG reduced passenger capacity in April and May by 94 per cent compared to last year, only operating flights for essential travel and repatriation.
“The group expects its operating loss in the second quarter to be significantly worse than in the first quarter, given the substantial decline in passenger capacity and traffic and despite some relief on employee costs from government job retention and wage support schemes,” said Stephen Gunning, chief financial officer at IAG.
“Recovery to the level of passenger demand in 2019 is expected to take several years, necessitating group-wide restructuring measures.”
More detailed results for the first quarter will be released as planned on May 7th the group said.
Unite secretary general Len McCluskey branded the move a “heartless decision”.
He said the decision was entirely at odds with the course of action followed by European competitors as they seek a way through the crisis.
McCluskey explained: “This announcement will be felt as the stab in the back it undoubtedly is by the close-knit British Airways family.
“We say to British Airways’ boss Alex Cruz that this is a heartless decision in a time of national crisis.
“With the majority of British Airways workers on furlough, we would have expected him to work with both us and the government to honour the spirit of the job retention scheme.”
He added: “Governments across Europe, in Spain, Germany and France are working with trade unions and airlines to rebuild back better, keeping people in work while the sector recovers.
“We simply cannot understand as to why Alex Cruz is not doing the same, unless he has sought an opportunity to see other airlines fail, so that British Airways can profit.
“To reject government support but then expect their own staff to pay the cost of such a misjudgement, is irresponsible, dangerous and destructive and is utterly at odds with the mood of the country at a time of crisis.
“This industry must pull together, or many more working people will suffer the same fate as these 12,000 British Airways workers.”