British Airways is fighting for its survival and has acted lawfully, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of the airline's owner IAG said, in a terse response to UK politicians who heavily criticised its treatment of employees. 

The airline has been labelled a "national disgrace" by the UK Transport Select Committee.

The committee said IAG were trying to take advantage of the coronavirus crisis to cut 12,000 jobs and downgrade the terms and conditions of other employees. 

Willie Walsh defended the company in a letter to the committee, rejecting the lawmakers' findings and saying their report was not based on facts.

"British Airways is fighting for its survival, in the face of overwhelming and unprecedented challenges, while respecting the fundamental British value of the rule of law. This is not a disgrace," he wrote. 

BA is engaged in a battle with unions and in legal action against the UK government over a quarantine policy which requires all international arrivals to self-isolate for 14 days. 

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Willie Walsh, one of the most experienced airline bosses in the world, said it was clear that the UK government had no plans to help the sector restart and recover, and criticised the quarantine. 

The airline is burning through £20m a day and has no revenues. It is preparing for what most airlines and travel experts expect to be a smaller travel market after the coronavirus pandemic. 

"We will continue to do everything in our power to ensure that British Airways can survive and sustain the maximum number of jobs consistent with the new reality of a changed airline industry in a severely weakened national and global economy," Mr Walsh wrote.

IAG also owns Aer Lingus which said yesterday that it will cut the pay and working hours of staff to 30% of pre-Covid-19 levels and implement layoffs after unions failed to meet the airline's deadline yesterday to accept a new programme of work practice reforms.

Aer Lingus CEO Sean Doyle said the company will proceed with implementing the work practice and work organisation changes which had previously been communicated to staff, saying all of the changes were "absolutely required in the context of the unprecedented crisis that we face".