British Airways has confirmed plans to open a temporary cabin crew base in Madrid with Spanish contract workers working alongside full-time BA crew members in order to ease a summer staffing crisis that risks derailing the airline’s hope of financial recovery.
News of the plans leaked several weeks ago but at that point, British Airways said no final decision had been made and it was simply exploring interest in the idea.
But on Friday, BA’s parent company International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) confirmed that temporary cabin crew would be “sourced” from Spain as a short term measure to ease an ongoing staffing crunch.
The airline group, which has its headquarters in Madrid, said there was no shortage of interest for cabin crew vacancies at British Airways but that a “complex and onerous referencing process” was slowing down the recruitment of UK-based cabin crew.
As a result of these delays, BA has more than 100 new hire cabin crew ready to start helping out at check-in at Heathrow Airport rather than undergoing training because security vetting hasn’t been completed.
British Airways claims the average time to complete referencing checks has increased by 20 per cent to nearly three and a half months.
The airline insists the cabin crew base in Madrid will only be temporary with agency staff employed on fixed six-month contracts for short-haul operations only. BA is looking for Spanish workers who have previously worked as cabin crew and still are accredited with the European Air Safety Agency.
Contract cabin crew will work alongside BA’s permanent cabin crew and will be mainly used on routes to Spanish destinations including popular holiday routes like the Balearics and Canary Islands.
Although based in Madrid, the temporary workers will be flown to London at the start of a 4-6 day working block and then put up in a hotel close to Heathrow Airport.
As well as hiring seasonal contract cabin crew, BA has also contracted aeroplanes and crew from Finnair, Iberia Express and Titan Airways to operate short-haul services from Heathrow and Gatwick airports – a process known as ‘wet leasing’.
British Airways isn’t lacking available aircraft but a wet-lease contract involves hiring both the crew and the aircraft so some BA planes will likely sit idle over the summer months because the airline is struggling to recruit enough staff.
Even with temporary staff and wet-lease arrangements, the airline is cutting capacity for the summer season and proactively cancelling plans through to the end of October.
The news was confirmed on the same day IAG released its financial results for the first quarter of 2022. The airline group reported a loss of €731 million for the first three months of the year but chief executive Luis Gallego says the group hopes to start posting a profit from Q2 as well as for the full year.