British Airways is set to rehire about 3,000 cabin crew after cutting around 10,000 jobs at the height of the Covid-19 crisis last year.
The estimate came from the Unite union as it accused the airline of offering to rehire staff on substantially lower pay than in their previous roles.
BA did not confirm how many staff would be taken back, but it has begun offering new cabin crew jobs from next summer, according to an internal email seen by the Financial Times.
Staff who took voluntary redundancy last year but had the opportunity to join “talent pools” to be called upon when the industry recovered are now being contacted initially as demand returns.
The email to BA staff reportedly said the planned easing of UK-US travel restrictions from November been a “major milestone” for the industry.
“Finally we are beginning to see some real momentum as more countries open up for travel and consumer confidence grows,” the FT reported the email as saying.
The vast majority of cabin crew who left the airline last year took voluntary redundancy and even with these additional roles BA will still have fewer cabin crew than in 2019.
The recruitment process means cabin crew would join in time for the start of the summer 2022 schedule.
But Unite general secretary Sharon Graham criticised the carrier for acting “in bad faith”.
She said: “The creation of these new posts confirms what Unite said last year, there was never any need to sack thousands of dedicated BA staff.
“Now, fewer than 12 months later BA is championing its intention to recruit thousands of new staff, insultingly even asking those crew it sacked needlessly last year to re-apply on substantially reduced terms and conditions.”
BA came under fire for its handling of employee relations last year as almost every airline made severe cuts to their workforces in the face of the pandemic.
This included a threat, which was never enacted, to “fire and rehire” staff on worse pay on top of the thousands redundancies.
Both the new BA hires and a potential new subsidiary at Gatwick is being interpreted as a reflection on how airlines will look to rebuild their workforces and operations alongside cost savings achieved during the pandemic.
Many other airlines are also recruiting staff as services start returning from the depths of the pandemic.
But Iata does not predict flying will return to 2019 levels until 2023-24.
A BA spokesperson said: “As we begin our recovery after an unprecedented and unpredictable 18-month crisis which saw us restructure our business to survive, we’re starting to build back our schedule for next summer.
“To ensure our customers can take the trips they need, we’re now creating opportunities for former colleagues and new applicants in our cabin crew team.”