Cash crunch forces British Airways to sell its famous lounge art collection

Jun 18, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

British Airways, like airlines around the world, is facing an unprecedented financial challenge.

Back in April, the cash-strapped airline announced it would lay off 12,000 employees — over a quarter of its workforce.

For more TPG news delivered each morning to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.

Now, the airline is quietly selling one of its most valuable assets: its art collection. The collection features work by famous artists such as Damien Hirst and Peter Doig, and one of the works up for sale has been valued at more than 1 million pounds sterling (approximately $1.2 million), as first reported by The Evening Standard.

Many of the works have been mainstays in the airline’s lounges for over 30 years, and at least 10 major artworks are reportedly up for sale. British Airways declined to comment, although the idea of the sale is said to have originated with staff members who suggested having the artwork valued.

A painting by Bridget Riley, currently on display at the Heathrow Executive Lounge, is among those for sale — but you’ll have to pay up. As the Evening Standard noted, this artwork will cost you “well into seven figures.” It was not immediately clear how interested buyers can bid on or purchase the art (we somehow doubt your Avios will be accepted in exchange for priceless works of art), or who will be eligible to purchase the pieces.

No matter how you look at it, the plan is a creative way to save jobs and keep the airline afloat as it weathers the economic fallout from the pandemic. The airline is not planning to ask the U.K. government for a bailout, according to a note circulated by CEO Alex Cruz in April.

Related: Here’s why you should care about British Airways Avios

“We are taking every possible action to conserve cash, which will help us to weather the storm in the short-term,” Cruz wrote in the letter to employees. “We are working closely with partners and suppliers to discuss repayment terms; we are renegotiating contracts where possible; and we are considering all the options for our current and future aircraft fleet. All of these actions alone are not enough.”

The letter from Cruz to British Airways employees followed the release of IAG’s preliminary first-quarter results. In it, the company detailed that total revenue dropped by 13% to $5.7 billion, compared to $6.6 billion the year prior — so it’s pretty clear how dire the situation is. International Airlines Group (IAG) is the airline’s parent company.

British Airways has over 30 departure lounges all over the world. In fact, some of its lounges — at London Heathrow (LHR) as well as New York-Kennedy (JFK) — feature spas where some guests can receive a 15-minute complimentary service, although they are temporarily closed until further notice.

Featured photo courtesy of British Airways.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new card in your first three months of card membership. Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at U.S. restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 50,000 bonus miles and 5,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $2,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months.
  • Plus, earn up to $100 back in statement credits for eligible purchases at US restaurants with your card within the first 3 months of membership.
  • Accelerate your path to Medallion Status, with Status Boost®. Plus, in 2021 you can earn even more bonus Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) to help you reach Medallion Status.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide, including takeout and delivery and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. *Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $75 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre✓®.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
15.74%-24.74% Variable
Annual Fee
$250
Balance Transfer Fee
N/A
Recommended Credit
Excellent/Good
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.