Speaking after the refusal of British Airways and IAG management to meet with the Home Secretary Priti Patel and aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst this afternoon, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said:

"British Airways' workers, passengers and shareholders deserve to know why the airline's management refused to attend the meeting with ministers this afternoon.

"This is a company that claims to be in crisis, a crisis that requires them to sack their entire workforce of 42,000, yet they will not attend a meeting where help could have been offered.

"The government has opened the door and the entire UK aviation industry is meeting – airline carriers and airports – in an effort to find a way through this crisis.  It is unbelievable and, frankly irresponsible, that BA would sit this out.

"Thousands of airline and airport jobs across this country are currently hanging by a thread yet BA spurns the opportunity to work with industry and government to pull together at this time of huge upheaval.

"BA's conduct is extraordinary. They plead poverty yet are pressing on with a one billion euros purchase of Air Europa.  They will happily talk to the Spanish government and work with them to save Spanish jobs yet refuse to speak to the UK government to save our workers' jobs.  This betrayal will not be forgotten or forgiven by the British public.

"BA has to come to their senses and get round the table with ministers and Unite to stop this destruction of not just our national carrier but the ruin BA's actions will bring to this sector as a whole."