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UK flag carrier British Airways is planning to lay-off staff and ground more aircraft as the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic continues to expand worldwide.

In an internal memo to the staff, British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz said that the recent crisis is more severe compared with the last decade’s recession, SARS outbreak or 9/11 terrorist attack.

To address the worsening situation, the airline is planning to trim its workforce for ‘short period’ and also a ‘longer-term’, Reuters reported citing the memo.

However, the message did not specify the number of redundancies planned by the airline. British Airways is currently negotiating with the trade unions on the issue, the memo added.

The airline now employs around 45,000 people.

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The global airline industry is witnessing a sharp drop in demand due to the current Covid-19 outbreak, which has impacted more than 134 countries.

With new travel restrictions imposed by several countries, several carriers have already streamlined operations and reduced the number of operating flights.

British Airways’ parent firm International Airlines Group (IAG) also announced a series of measures to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.

Steps include grounding surplus aircraft, reducing capital spending and freezing recruitment to improve overall cash flow. It is also implementing voluntary leave options and reduced working hours.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh said: “We have seen a substantial decline in bookings across our airlines and global network over the past few weeks and we expect demand to remain weak until well into the summer.

“We are therefore making significant reductions to our flying schedules. We will continue to monitor demand levels and we have the flexibility to make further cuts if necessary.”

Meanwhile, the Covid-19 death toll exceeded 6,500.