British Airways has already started cancelling flights after pilots voted to strike for better pay and conditions next month, disrupting travel plans for tens of thousands of passengers.
Yesterday pilots’ union Balpa confirmed a strike by more than 3,000 pilots for next month after talks with BA broke down.
By the evening affected passengers had started receiving emails telling them their flights were cancelled, apologising for the inconvenience, and warning them not to go to the airport.
BA wrote: ‘We are very sorry to tell you that due to industrial action by British Airways’ pilots union, BALPA, your flight … has been cancelled.
‘The strike is expected to have a significant impact on our operation and will result in a large number of delays or cancellations.
‘Please do not go to the airport, you can rebook or refund your cancelled flight online.’
A month after announcing its members had voted for industrial action, the union said there was now ‘no prospect of any further meaningful talks’ and claimed it had ‘no choice but to call this action’.
The airline called the pilots’ union ‘reckless’ for their decision to strike in September
This will be the first time BA pilots will go on strike – in the company’s centenary year.
The walkouts will take place on September 9 and 10 – a Monday and Tuesday – and Friday, September 27.
Pilots, including captains on an average of £167,000 a year, have rejected an 11.5 per cent pay rise over three years plus an extra bonus worth 1 per cent of this year’s salary.
BA’s chief executive Alex Cruz said its pilots were already on ‘world-class’ packages and that the ‘inflation-busting’ hike would have pushed the average package of its captains above £200,000.
Mr Cruz pointed out that the same deal has been accepted by members of Unite and GMB, who account for 90 per cent of BA’s workforce and include staff on far more modest incomes, including cabin crew and engineers.
David Davis, Tory MP and former cabinet minister, said members of the public would ‘simply not understand’ why already highly paid pilots would not accept the existing pay offer and ‘destroy people’s hard-earned holidays to get paid even more’.
Although the strike will take place after the summer holiday peak, it is still set to ground hundreds of BA flights – with around 2,400 scheduled in and out of UK airports over the three day period. Balpa represents roughly 90 per cent of BA’s 4,311 pilots, the majority of whom are based at London Heathrow.
BA said 1,061 pilots did not vote for the strike, which means roughly three quarters of its pilots are expected to protest. In a statement, the airline said: ‘It is completely unacceptable that Balpa is destroying the travel plans of tens of thousands of our customers with this unjustifiable strike action.
British Airways pilots will walk out for three days next month in an escalating row over their pay
‘We are extremely sorry that after many months of negotiations, based on a very fair offer, Balpa has decided on this reckless course of action.’
BA said it is ‘doing everything it can’ to mitigate the disruption, and is looking at options including hiring aircraft and crew from rivals, and scheduling larger planes to carry more passengers.
But it said it is ‘likely that many of our customers will not be able to travel’. Mr Cruz apologised for the disruption the strikes will cause, and said passengers would be contacted in 24 to 36 hours.
Passengers whose flights are cancelled will be offered refunds or the chance to re-book for free.
Flights on BA CityFlyer, SUN-AIR and Comair will not be affected by the strikes. Adam French, Consumer Rights Expert at Which?, said: ‘Many affected passengers may also be eligible for compensation as these strikes are led by airline staff.’
Balpa has warned of further strike dates if the row is not resolved. It said strike action will cost BA around £40million a day and but only £5million to give in to its pay demands.
Balpa disputed BA’s pay figures and said many pilots – particularly co-pilots, or first officers – are paid well under £100,000. It said entry-level pilots are paid £26,000 while saddled with training debts of up to £100,000.
The union orchestrated a two-day strike by Ryanair over pay, which ended yesterday with minimal impact on passengers as the airline had pilots who were not involved in the dispute step in.