British Airways Asks Pilots To Work As Flight Attendants

British Airways Asks Pilots To Work As Flight Attendants

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Paddle Your Own Kanoo has the details of an internal memo that outlines how British Airways is so short staffed on flight attendants, that the airline is looking for pilots and office workers to temporarily take on the role.

British Airways’ “Take To The Skies” program

British Airways’ wholly-owned CityFlyer subsidiary is based at London City Airport, and operates a fleet of Embraer E190 aircraft. While so many airlines have staff shortages nowadays, the situation at CityFlyer seems to be dire. Specifically, the airline is allegedly recruiting pilots and office staff to temporarily work as flight attendants, in a program that’s called “Take To The Skies.”

Those who take part in the program would undergo basic training to become flight attendants, and would then fly for a period of a minimum of 2.5 months. This is being described to employees as a way to “travel to a wide range of destinations,” “meet new people in the business,” and see “what it is really like for our crew to do their job.”

Apparently staff would maintain their usual pay under this program, which seems like a costly initiative for pilots.

Why this is a controversial initiative

There are a couple of things at play here that make this challenging.

First of all, this concept will no doubt be unpopular with unions. Similar tactics of trying to find temporary replacements for flight attendants have been used in the past during industrial action (Icelandair tried to do this in 2020, when the airline threatened to fire all flight attendants). Odds are that most pilots (who are also unionized) would be unlikely to want to do this, especially given the limited upside.

Along similar lines, while all kinds of companies are short staffed nowadays, British Airways does an especially terrible job with labor relations. The company has long treated both pilots and flight attendants as disposable, not letting any crisis go to waste in terms of trying to cut costs at the expense of employees. We’ve seen British Airways do this with both pilots and flight attendants, so the level of trust among employees is low.

I can’t imagine many people will take British Airways up on this opportunity, though I’d sure love to experience service from a pilot or office worker…

Bottom line

British Airways’ CityFlyer subsidiary is allegedly so short staffed on flight attendants that pilots and office workers are being recruited to temporarily work in that role for a period of at least 2.5 months. I’m curious to see if there ends up being any interest here.

I suspect most pilots won’t do this on principle, given that it essentially undermines flight attendant labor negotiations. But you never know…

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  1. Scarlett Guest

    dude this cannot be real, especially for the pilots, I understand for office workers it would be quite interesting to go on flights as an attendant for free, but I can't see why any pilots would take this responsibility. why were BA so short-staffed anyway?

  2. Diana Guest

    Why can't they open vacancies to other continents so they can recruit more cabin crews like the middle Eastern airlines are doing?

  3. paul debusschere Guest

    maybe the FA's could also work as pilots...

  4. Ivan Guest

    Pilots will gladly become Crew and help bust unions , British Airways pilots did exactly this in 2010 very scabby behaviour , complete lowlife a union busting another union

  5. Bgbjjh Guest

    Maybe they will stop asking for cappuccinos with low fat milk sugar on the side and 2cm foam, and yogurt with muesli and fruits while we are in the middle of the service

  6. LovetoFly Member

    Pilots work as flight attendants. Flight attendants work as a plane's cleaning crew, and down the list. Not sure when we'll see the executive staff helping out at the airport.....

  7. SLL Guest

    Pilots, especially in the US, eat their own young. I’ll bet they will have no problem messing with fellow employees and union members by filling their jobs. They love to have their hands in others’ pockets while viciously defending their own.

  8. Veronique Larnicol Guest

    As a former FA I doubt very much that many pilots will agree to don an apron and serve drinks to passengers. Many of these guys regard FAs as ‘uneducated waitresses’ , ( yes, I heard some saying that and worse) , even though many of us had more schooling than them. Conversely, it says a lot about the respect this airline has for its pilots. What’s next? Get the entire crew to clean the plane after each flight? Of wait…. It’s already being done!

  9. Pat Lockyer Guest

    Pathetic! Start a training class for the public to join, then hire from there! Raise wages! Actually pay the stewardesses for all the time they spend preparing for the flight and greeting passengers, not just when “wheels are up!”. This workforce has been taken advantage of for way too long. No wonder you can’t get good help.
    Letting office workers sub for flight attendents is a slap in the attendants faces.
    Shame on you British Airways!

  10. Alan Baranowski Guest

    I have to fly BA often and think the cabin crew are fabulous, however their customer service line is no more than absolute useless and a waste of time - in fact I don’t think it’s a real - you can never and I mean NEVER get through to speak to anyone - The senior executives of BA have lost the plot and no doubt some previously loyal customers- oh and ps - I don’t want a Kit Kat for my breakfast .

  11. Carlyanny Guest

    Call Breeze Airways we are all trained and certified on the 190s and are over staffed taking “Breeze Breaks” We can come fill in!

  12. PeterA Guest

    Perhaps if BA paid cabin crew a decent salary they wouldn’t be short staffed. Willie Walsh who, in my opinion, sowed the seeds of this problem made millions at BA/IAG and moved on to let others clear up the mess.

    1. Douglas Skinner Guest

      Our son was a flight attendant with Air Canada for a couple of years while piling up his flying hours. They were great to him. Even time a pilot job came up they would give him a leave of absence to fly, then take him back when the job ended. When he finally joined them as a pilot, they transferred his accumulated pension. He reckons his knowledge of the back of the plane is invaluable

  13. Curt Guest

    I once rode a small airline in Australia where the co-pilot walked out of the no-door cockpit, dragging an "Esky" behind him, and handed out bottles of orange juice .

  14. Rosie Hambrick Guest

    What about opening up employment to the whole world! There are so many qualified persons especially in the French and English speaking Caribbean…….. And I dare say in so many areas of the world. The world is getting smaller and more compact, open up work spaces as well.

  15. Charles Guest

    If they paid flight attendants a living wage they might not lose so many.

    1. Jane Milsome Guest

      BA didn’t lose so many Cabin Crew - they got rid of them for a pittance during the pandemic!!!! Now it’s over and surprise, surprise BA are short staffed - Fire and now Rehire - criminal!

  16. Chinedu Ndika Guest

    It's a good start but thy all have to apply wisdom in all

  17. Michael Guest

    Obviously during the next pilot negotiation, they'll ask flight attendants to fill in as pilots. So what's the problem?

  18. OnTheRun Guest

    BA is the most miserable customer unfriendly airline in the sky. I would sooner walk than fly them. Even so, it is especially sad to see that they hold their employees in the same low esteem they hold their customers in.

  19. Endre Guest

    “Welcome at British Airways. Your call is important to us. All our customer experience agents are currently busy serving passengers in economy class. Please call back later. Thank you.”

  20. astrid Guest

    After laying off the flight attendants, they need them back again.

  21. Mh Diamond

    Seems they took their motto of "To fly. To serve." as their new job model.

  22. Rene Guest

    I would do it in a heartbeat!

  23. Lune New Member

    If this is for regional flights out of London City, I'm not sure there's much glamor to be had overnighting in Manchester or Edinburgh... :-)

  24. Steve Guest

    Why can't one of the pilots serve business class after switching to autopilot? That is about the time service starts. Service ends just before landing. Seems to me this model would generate some cost savings.

    1. Ollie Guest

      And what if one of the pilots have a heart attack? Which has happened before...

      If something goes wrong on a plane, things can go wrong, fast! even at high altitudes. Every second can count.. 2 pilots are required when there's just a simple issue as well as In an emergency as one will have control of the plane whilst the other diagnosis the issue.

      To take a pilot out of the cockpit is an...

      And what if one of the pilots have a heart attack? Which has happened before...

      If something goes wrong on a plane, things can go wrong, fast! even at high altitudes. Every second can count.. 2 pilots are required when there's just a simple issue as well as In an emergency as one will have control of the plane whilst the other diagnosis the issue.

      To take a pilot out of the cockpit is an incredibly bad decision, especially if its to save a few penny's... the faa would never allow it

    2. Sean Guest

      I can not believe what I am reading!? Do people not think before posting

    3. Alexf1 Member

      Surely this is satire?

  25. TMo Guest

    I am part of the current icsp programme which has been inplace for some time and its a fantastic scheme, gives a chance for those colleagues perhaps office based or in roles not close to the product gain experience and also provides a chance to connect with colleagues we usually wouldn't. The training and chance to learn new skills is a real draw and I find it really motivational and get support and training time...

    I am part of the current icsp programme which has been inplace for some time and its a fantastic scheme, gives a chance for those colleagues perhaps office based or in roles not close to the product gain experience and also provides a chance to connect with colleagues we usually wouldn't. The training and chance to learn new skills is a real draw and I find it really motivational and get support and training time to balance the 2 roles. It was one of Willie's best initiatives imho!! Rgds T

  26. Victor Guest

    Please help me out. Is it that easy to train office staff to be become FAs? Would a "basic training" suffice in case of an emergency?

  27. David Dodd Guest

    BA needs to get its act together I know someone who left BA two years ago after 14 years service and heard they are short staffed replied and was offered a 5 week course in May havent BA hear of a 3 day conversion courses complease waists of resources and time and money

  28. Wesley Rouse Guest

    Not sure how receptive the pilot will be to taking on these duties but for the safety of the passengers there will always be back-up pilot on the plane in case of emergencies in the cockpit.

  29. Yaseen Guest

    I'd fear the day FAs would be asked to pilot BA flights.

  30. A.Fletcher Guest

    Nothing new here. Willi Walsh took on the cabin crew union BASSA many years ago and won. He invited BA staff from all quarters to be trained as cabin crew to combat the industrial action by the cabin crew. There were many volunteers such as pilots, engineers , office workers etc. It was a success, Willi kept the airline going and the union backed down on its stike action. The outcome was a new cabin...

    Nothing new here. Willi Walsh took on the cabin crew union BASSA many years ago and won. He invited BA staff from all quarters to be trained as cabin crew to combat the industrial action by the cabin crew. There were many volunteers such as pilots, engineers , office workers etc. It was a success, Willi kept the airline going and the union backed down on its stike action. The outcome was a new cabin crew fleet named Mixed Fleet on inferior terms which ultimately replaced the costly World Wide and European Cabin Crew Fleets. And the legacy is that BA now has just one cabin crew fleet which is more productive and competitive.

    1. Journeying John Guest

      Err... not sure when the last time you flew BA was but as a 70 sector (global) a year guy I can assure you there is NO way BA's service has been 'competitive' since 2006.
      It has been among the most profitable airlines on the planet ppm.
      It had been run for short term profits and executive dividends for at least the last decade before CoVid19.
      This shows in the; service, staffing...

      Err... not sure when the last time you flew BA was but as a 70 sector (global) a year guy I can assure you there is NO way BA's service has been 'competitive' since 2006.
      It has been among the most profitable airlines on the planet ppm.
      It had been run for short term profits and executive dividends for at least the last decade before CoVid19.
      This shows in the; service, staffing levels, reliability and value it offers in the market, whether shorthaul or longhaul.
      Only their inherited dominance of landing slots at the worlds most congested airport (LHR) has enabled their business model. They have abused both their staff and customers in recent years inc. pre Covid-19. The new management team haven't even scratched the surface and they are unable to even begin to deal with any customer not flying within 2weeks. Then after a frequently over 60min wait, the agent you are connected with is often disempowered to actually help. Their social media presence is under resourced and similarly unable to resolve most issues. The chatbot on their website is... inane and a waste of time for the customer.
      BA are in an almost unprecedented crisis, much of their own making and without fundamental change (not the recent CEO's promises about tomorrow) are in deep. deep trouble.
      For me personally, until they are reliably delivering something that vaguely resembles their marketing for at least six months *and* respecting their stakeholders, not exclusively their shareholders I won't book.

    2. reed Member

      If anything, all this goes to show just how much they rely on competitively priced labor to turn a profit. In the face of gross strategic mismanagement, they still manage to be profitable? Just goes to show you how competitive they have managed to remain in their few strengths—with aggressive labor relations as one of them, to be sure.

  31. warren trout Guest

    Missing a big part of the puzzle. Pilots are already trained on a major part of the FAs job -safety. An office worker would take more training.

  32. Dallas Mcintosh Guest

    I can see Postman Pat getting excited already.
    Remember folks if you are going to circulate names then do it from a pay as you go SIM card

  33. Greg Jones Guest

    Who is surprised by this? British Airways at what's at one time one of the top 10 airlines in the world. The destruction of British Airways started in 2005 with the appointment of Willie Walsh as CEO. After his destructive 10 years they brought on discount carrier president Alex Cruz the fully destroy the airline. It has morphed into nothing but crap show and a Budget Airline. It's nothing at all on a global scale....

    Who is surprised by this? British Airways at what's at one time one of the top 10 airlines in the world. The destruction of British Airways started in 2005 with the appointment of Willie Walsh as CEO. After his destructive 10 years they brought on discount carrier president Alex Cruz the fully destroy the airline. It has morphed into nothing but crap show and a Budget Airline. It's nothing at all on a global scale. How anyone could ever work for that airline in this state that it's being the last 10 to 15 years I do not know but it's unrecognizable and quite frankly I don't ever care if I fly them again. I call it shitshow in the skies.

    1. Jouneying John Guest

      No Longer simply "#BloodyAwful" but in 2022, #BeyondAbysmal and #BestAvoided

  34. Creditcrunch Gold

    It’s not just a BA problem, I was in the Virgin Clubhouse at LHR back in January and they had cabin crew, office staff and some 3rd officers working the tables and bar. The FSM on the flight told me they have lost 2 cabin crew permanently and layovers have been reduced from 2 days to 1. It’s going to take a few years to get back to normal staffing wise industry wide.

    1. Journeying John Guest

      BA have an extreme case because of the abuse they've inflicted on the remaining workforce after letting about a third of it go very recently.
      This is a self inflicted crisis. Customers equally have had enough in many cases and are recognizing how bad BA "service" is having similarly been mistreated.

  35. Jerry Diamond

    For an office worker this could be a lot of fun. I'd do it.

    1. Suzie Alcatrez Guest

      I wonder how much of a pay cut the office workers must take?

    2. OPR New Member

      See above:
      "Apparently staff would maintain their usual pay under this program (..)"

    3. OPR New Member

      See above:

      "Apparently staff would maintain their usual pay under this program (..)"

  36. cornell Guest

    I'm pretty sure a lot of employees will take BA up on this. If one wants to go management, working in a different branch and helping out for a few months shows initative and willingness to learn other aspects. If one is bored in their present role they can take this position to see if they'd like that better. Plus being an FA is easy and fun and you're in a different city every night....

    I'm pretty sure a lot of employees will take BA up on this. If one wants to go management, working in a different branch and helping out for a few months shows initative and willingness to learn other aspects. If one is bored in their present role they can take this position to see if they'd like that better. Plus being an FA is easy and fun and you're in a different city every night. This is an amazing temporary short-term assignment for a back office airline employee.

    1. Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Guest

      You’re not in a different city every night on BA CityFlyer, you’re in London every night, which costs a fortune to either live in, or travel to, every day

    2. JDee Diamond

      You sound like a BA PR Rep...

  37. Steve Guest

    That is the problem with unions... They made a difference 75 years ago...Now it is just a business like any other company... Unions are for people who do not want to work ..
    Nothing more, nothing less..

    1. Journeying John Guest

      In the UK, McDonalds offer a better pay rate than BA are offering their new crew.
      BA let go a third of it's workforce despite a relatively generous government support scheme (available to all UK employers), tax breaks (available to all UK airlines), access to approx £8billion in cash reserves via their parent company, additional UK taxpayer support of "£2billion", sought and received having spent the first half of the pandemic campaigning against additional...

      In the UK, McDonalds offer a better pay rate than BA are offering their new crew.
      BA let go a third of it's workforce despite a relatively generous government support scheme (available to all UK employers), tax breaks (available to all UK airlines), access to approx £8billion in cash reserves via their parent company, additional UK taxpayer support of "£2billion", sought and received having spent the first half of the pandemic campaigning against additional help for the sector in hopes of driving their competitors bankrupt.
      The current crisis is market forces at work, pure and simple!

      PS. Virgin and other UK carriers have not received special support, despite BA in reality being the UK division of a Spanish registered multinational....

  38. Matthew Tobe Guest

    I believe you should always experience every aspect of a job you work in. It can’t hurt them to learn what the FAs go through on a daily basis just for 2 months!

    1. Aussie Guest

      Should the janitor also fly the plane every once in a while?

    2. Donato Guest

      No. Those in a higher position should know a lot of the other skillsets necessary. The richest person, with a full time chef should know how to operate the stove.
      A medical Doctor should know how to draw blood, insert an IV and even manually process a CBC.

    3. Air Guy Guest

      Stupid comment. It takes years to learn how to fly a plane. Of course you wouldn't know that.

      Now if the janitor has a good record and speaks English while and has great customer contact skills and absolutely he should be allowed to jump into the flight attendant role. It might be something he could eventually stay with. Or she. Please don't put stupid comments on here and waste our time.

    4. Jim Guest

      Agree, so have the head office folks serve as flight attendants

    5. Sir Digby Chicken Caesar Guest

      Right so get the marketing department refuelling planes, have the flight attendants working on multi-jurisdictional litigation, and have the CFO preparing the catering then? Is that seriously what you believe lol?

  39. panda Gold

    Sounds like an awful place to work.

  40. uldguy Diamond

    For those of you who may recall Northwest Airlines, the company had a long history of labor strife. Management employees at NW were required to be trained as flight attendants, and once trained they had to remain current. The official reason for this requirement was to be able to assist in an emergency. The unofficial but true reason was to replace flight attendants should the union call a strike. It came close a few times,...

    For those of you who may recall Northwest Airlines, the company had a long history of labor strife. Management employees at NW were required to be trained as flight attendants, and once trained they had to remain current. The official reason for this requirement was to be able to assist in an emergency. The unofficial but true reason was to replace flight attendants should the union call a strike. It came close a few times, especially in the late 90's when management employees were posted to key points in the U.S. and Japan while contract negotiations dragged on. Had a strike actually been called, Northwest would have continued to operate just the U.S. - Tokyo flights (the big money makers at the time) using management flight attendants. Fortunately cooler heads prevailed and agreements were eventually reached. But quite a few managers spent a few weeks in LAX, JFK, NRT and a few other places just cooling their heels waiting for their beepers to go off. Fun times, I'm sure!

    1. cornell Guest

      Of course they trained managers to be scabs, they are managers their loyalty is to the company. But you can't get salty that managers receive the same training their subordinates received. That's silly.

    2. Journeying John Guest

      In the UK, McDonalds offer a better pay rate than BA are offering their new crew.
      BA let go a third of it's workforce despite a relatively generous government support scheme (available to all UK employers), tax breaks (available to all UK airlines), access to approx £8billion in cash reserves via their parent company, additional UK taxpayer support of "£2billion", sought and received having spent the first half of the pandemic campaigning against additional...

      In the UK, McDonalds offer a better pay rate than BA are offering their new crew.
      BA let go a third of it's workforce despite a relatively generous government support scheme (available to all UK employers), tax breaks (available to all UK airlines), access to approx £8billion in cash reserves via their parent company, additional UK taxpayer support of "£2billion", sought and received having spent the first half of the pandemic campaigning against additional help for the sector in hopes of driving their competitors bankrupt.
      The current crisis is market forces at work, pure and simple!

      PS. Virgin and other UK carriers have not received special support, despite BA in reality being the UK division of a Spanish registered multinational....

  41. Eskimo Guest

    So this is what Sean Doyle means when he wanted BA to be more premium.

    BA Flight attendants can now fly planes too. Talk about premium.

    So I guess next logical step for more premium is a new premium class by putting Concorde seats in a 777 and sell it as Concorde fares?

    1. Journeying John Guest

      It's actually the a321 (in other configurations a luxurious experience) that BA use for "shorthaul" (upto 4hrs), where they have shrunk space standards to well below many of their competitors.

  42. Nomad Member

    The focus on pilots doing the job of flight attendants grabs the headlines (as no doubt exactly intended by BA), but I suspect the real aim here is to get some office workers to demonstrate that they're not needed in the office, so they can get laid off, by enticing them with the chance to "see the world" on their usual pay after being stuck at home for years during a pandemic (in many cases...

    The focus on pilots doing the job of flight attendants grabs the headlines (as no doubt exactly intended by BA), but I suspect the real aim here is to get some office workers to demonstrate that they're not needed in the office, so they can get laid off, by enticing them with the chance to "see the world" on their usual pay after being stuck at home for years during a pandemic (in many cases literally from home, rather than in the office anyway). British "never let a crisis go to waste" Airways is never more than 2.5 months away from a sneaky cost-cutting manoeuvre...

    1. RF Diamond

      Lol good point. BA looking to empty the offices and see who won't be missed.

  43. Vinod Guest

    Something similar happened a few years ago during a labor dispute (when WW was CEO, prior to be elevated to Charman) - specifically on long haul operations, Pilots filled in as cabin crew. The only difference was that no hot food was available (salads etc.)

    I am not sure that I agree with you re. BA's poor relationship with the labor unions - your description is more hyperbola than fact.

    1. Nathan Guest

      Oh puhLEASE. BA is so antaganistic toward both their staff and their unions that they’ve elevated it into an art form.

      Hello? Two disparate types of flight attendants arising from nothing other than sheer management arrogance - stop being a corporate lackey and an apologist!

Featured Comments Most helpful comments ( as chosen by the OMAAT community ).

The comments on this page have not been provided, reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any advertiser, and it is not an advertiser's responsibility to ensure posts and/or questions are answered.

Michael Guest

Obviously during the next pilot negotiation, they'll ask flight attendants to fill in as pilots. So what's the problem?

4
Endre Guest

“Welcome at British Airways. Your call is important to us. All our customer experience agents are currently busy serving passengers in economy class. Please call back later. Thank you.”

4
Nomad Member

The focus on pilots doing the job of flight attendants grabs the headlines (as no doubt exactly intended by BA), but I suspect the real aim here is to get some office workers to demonstrate that they're not needed in the office, so they can get laid off, by enticing them with the chance to "see the world" on their usual pay after being stuck at home for years during a pandemic (in many cases literally from home, rather than in the office anyway). British "never let a crisis go to waste" Airways is never more than 2.5 months away from a sneaky cost-cutting manoeuvre...

3
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