Staff travel at reduced rates has been a benefit of employment in British Airways for as long as anyone can remember. In the early years most staff travel was subload (subject to seat availability on departure) and tickets cost about 10% of the published fares.
Over time different forms of staff travel were introduced; firm travel, 100% rebate, 80% rebate, often tied to seniority and or length of service yet 90% subload was by far the most frequently used.
From the earliest days the company made Staff Travel available to pensioners, their spouses and young families. Widows or widowers of deceased pensioners, qualifying for a pension also qualified for staff travel on a similar basis to that which their spouse enjoyed when alive until or unless they re-married.
Before civil partnerships were created the company recognised long-term same-sex partnerships and such partners qualified for staff travel in much the same way as spouses.
In more recent times, staff travel fares have been codified or banded for simplification. They are also subject to tax at the same level and on the same basis as commercial passengers.
Now the company is changing Staff Travel again, but this time specifically penalising all pensioners and those it regards as merely "former employees". The new rules are laid out in the Retirees section of the my.baplc website.
The company goes to great lengths to emphasise that it does not regard Staff Travel as a contractual right but a privilege granted at the company’s discretion, thus giving the company the right to vary the offer at will.
This may or may not be the case but these changes, which can only be regarded as parsimonious, Draconian and illogical, will affect the lives of many, if not all, pensioners and their families.
They are parsimonious because they are targeted specifically at those people who cannot retaliate, those who are generally on a lower income than current employees and who are in the latter parts of their lives when the ability to travel often brings variety and excitement to an otherwise mundane existence.
They are Draconian because they remove at a stroke the basis on which many people have decided to plan for their retirement, moving overseas to be near relatives or in less expensive economies.
They are illogical because the most common form of staff traveller, those on 90% subload, make 100% contribution to the taxes levied against the airline by various governments. Recent changes in the UK for example mean that the airline is taxed on a per aircraft basis, and thus pays the same tax whether the seats are sold or not. Barring staff from these seats on a subload basis means the airline pays more in tax than it need pay.
All pensioners and retired staff to whom I have spoken recall that the opportunity for reduced rate staff travel was always mentioned prominently in job interviews and advertisements for it tended to counterbalance the pay rates which were generally lower than the median for the type of job. If anyone has examples of paid advertising for vacancies from any period which mention Staff Travel I would be very interested.
What is incontestable is that Staff Travel is long established and extensively used and therefore a valued element of airline employment. For long periods of time the company and its forerunners made no major changes to Staff Travel and such stability formed the basis on which staff planned their lives after retirement.
In fact many staff, particularly during the 1970's and 80's when the company was seeking to reduce the size of its workforce, took voluntary severance. Most of these people made their decision whether to leave and help the airline adjust to the new economic situation or to remain in post and retire at normal retirement age based on the totality of the package that they were offered.
This included what they perceived their prospects would be in the broad employment market, and what incentives were offered. These incentives usually included a lump sum, a deferred pension and reinstatement of their qualification for Staff Travel when they started to receive their pension.
What seems grossly unfair and immoral, even if it is not illegal, is for the company to change one of the elements on which the decision was made, 15 or 20 years later. Basic fairness would seem to argue that their entitlement to Staff Travel should, at least, remain as it was at the time of their severance. It might not help those who now enjoy civil partnership status but it would at least allow those who made serious and major decisions based on the totality of the offer made when they accepted severance to live out the remainder of their lives on that basis.
And therein lies the biggest unfairness of all. Pensioners are a declining group. Each month their numbers reduce. Even if their financial circumstances permit, each month fewer are physically able to contemplate long-distance air travel.
To penalise them now, as the new Staff Travel arrangements penalise them makes the airline look like a mean-minded, vindictive bully, exercising its weight against a defenceless group of people who’ve served it loyally for much of their working lives, who have no industrial leverage and who only wish for a relatively short extension of an opportunity to travel for which they worked and planned for up to forty years.
This posting is the opinion of one pensioner. To read the comments of others or to add your own comment, click on the word "Comments" below. To make a posting (as opposed to a comment) on the same or another topic please contact the author for access - click on the word "Comments" below. Comments and postings are moderated by the blog owner but only for moderately good taste and legality.