British Airways is considering outsourcing more than 1,000 UK-based call centre jobs as part of an attempt to cut costs.
The airline, owned by International Airlines Group (IAG), has asked third party outsourcers to bid to assess its call centres in Newcastle and Manchester, which employ a total of 1,400 people, with a view to delivering savings by shifting jobs offshore or cutting the number of people needed.
The ongoing downturn in the aviation industry has put BA under severe pressure to axe costs in a bid to compete with the boom in low-cost airlines which have edged in on its market share in recent years.
Earlier this year BA said it would join no-frills airlines Ryanair and easyJet in charging passengers for mid-air meals. BA will sell M&S sandwiches, snacks and drinks on economy flights shorter than five hours from January next year under a new deal with the British retailer.
The airline is also planning to squeeze an extra 52 seats on its Boeing 777 flights by shrinking seating space from 2018.
IAG, which also owns Aer Lingus and Iberia, has wiped more than a billion pounds from its expected earnings over the next four years and will cut its spending plans by a third in a bid to weather the fall in sterling and sluggish demand across the travel industry.
The FTSE 100 giant told investors that its earnings would average €5.3bn (£4.7bn) a year between 2016 and 2020, down an average of £266m every year to 2020.
A spokesman for BA said the review of its call centres is to ensure it is using the latest technology to deliver effective customer service.
He went on to say that any changes would be subject to consultation with staff and union representatives before any decisions could be taken.
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BA has invited external service suppliers to look at the airline’s contact centre business and submit proposals which could open the door to companies which are able to offer the cash-strapped airline cost
The airline currently employs 900 people in its Newcastle customer service centre and a further 400 in Manchester.
The move to potentially offshore its operations risks setting the airline on a collision course with workers’ unions which could lead to industrial action.
Unite has called the review “a slap in the face” for BA’s call centre employees and urged the airline to keep its customer service in-house.