UK airline British Airways has been forced to resort to selling artwork in order to raise capital amid the continued global travel demand slump due to the coronavirus pandemic. The artwork, which is owned by the company, is reportedly worth millions of dollars, with one piece valued at around $1.26 million.
The UK flag carrier airline plans to auction off the artworks, which had previously been displayed inside its airport lounges across the world. According to a report published by a local newspaper, some of the artworks are pieces done by famous artists such as Damien Hirst, Bridget Riley, and Peter Doig.
The report claims that at least 10 artworks from the airline's collection will be put up on auction. British Airways had reportedly contacted British-founded US art broker Sotheby's to value the items. Sotheby's is the world's largest broker of fine and decorative arts. Apart from appraising the values of artworks, Sotheby's also handles auctions in order to help owners find the right buyers.
Similar to other global airlines, British Airways has been facing massive financial pressures amid the coronavirus pandemic. The lockdowns and travel restrictions imposed by governments around the world have all but halted international and domestic air travel, resulting in billions of dollars of losses. Since the pandemic hit Europe, British Airways had been forced to ground its planes and impose drastic cost-cutting measures.
International Airlines Group (IAG), British Airways' parent company, announced back in April that it may be forced to cut as many as 12,000 jobs to reduce its overhead costs amid the pandemic. For its first quarter this year, the airline reported a massive 535 million euro loss, a dramatic drop from the 135 million euro profit it had reported for the first three months of last year.
The company had recently warned that it may be forced to implement other drastic measures to ensure its survival given the global economic downturn. It added that it will be keeping all options open and that it will strive to save as many jobs as it can while at the same time ensuring that it has enough liquidity to weather the storm.
According to a report published by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the global aviation industry is expected to shed more than half of its revenues for 2020. The path to recovering to pre-pandemic levels is expected to take months if not years, resulting in extended losses for global airline operators.
Last Friday, British Airways, along with other airlines such as Ryanair and EasyJet, had launched a formal legal challenge against the UK's standing quarantine rules that required travelers to isolate for 14 days upon their arrival. The challenge argued that the policy will negatively impact the airlines' operations and the country's tourism industry.