The union boss leading a pilots’ strike threatening the plans of hundreds of thousands of passengers was last night accused of delaying talks by going on holiday.
Brian Strutton, the general secretary of Balpa, is believed to be enjoying a European cruise ahead of his 60th birthday.
His members at British Airways have left passengers in travel limbo after announcing three days of industrial action next month.
Unhappy with a three-year pay deal worth 11.5 per cent, they are threatening to ground the fleet out of Heathrow, Gatwick, other UK airports and many more around the world.
Brian Strutton, the general secretary of Balpa, is believed to be enjoying a European cruise ahead of his 60th birthday as passengers for British Airways are left in travel limbo after announcing three days of industrial action next month
Unhappy with a three-year pay deal worth 11.5 per cent, they are threatening to ground the fleet out of Heathrow (pictured), Gatwick, other UK airports and many more around the world
Senior managers at the airline accuse Mr Strutton of hampering their efforts to resolve the dispute by travelling overseas. And the disappearance of the union boss, who earns more than £140,000 a year, will fuel the anger of those facing travel misery.
When confronted at the airport, Mr Strutton squirmed with awkwardness when asked why he should enjoy a holiday when his actions will lead to tens of thousands of Brits missing out.
‘Hmm, well we are trying not to affect other people’s holidays, of course,’ he told the Sun.
The union boss had arrived at Bournemouth airport with wife Sue and two grown-up sons at 6am ahead of a flight to Majorca to begin a seven-day cruise.
The union boss was confronted at Bournemouth Airport where he had arrived with wife Sue and two grown-up sons at 6am ahead of a flight to Majorca to begin a seven-day cruise.
Balpa insisted Mr Strutton’s senior colleagues were available to continue the talks.
BA sources said they shook hands with Mr Strutton on a three-year pay deal worth 11.5 per cent on the basis it would be recommended to pilots.
However, union bosses subsequently rejected the offer.
One woman wrote on Balpa’s Twitter feed: ‘Pure greed. Ruined my holiday and will miss a family wedding.’ Another said: ‘Ruining families and children’s holidays for pure greed is the lowest of the low.’
The action by the pilots would cancel more than 850 flights on each strike day – September 9, 10 and 27 – and ruin the travel plans of 450,000 people.
When confronted at the airport, Mr Strutton squirmed with awkwardness when asked why he should enjoy a holiday when his actions will lead to tens of thousands of Brits missing out. ‘Hmm, well we are trying not to affect other people’s holidays, of course,’ he told the Sun
There will also be disruption for some flights on surrounding days. Passengers are also furious with the way BA has handled the crisis.
The situation was made worse when thousands of passengers were sent cancellation emails for flights on either side of the strike days in error.
A second email rescinded the cancellations hours later, but not before many took the trouble and expense of booking new trips.
One traveller said his ten-year wedding anniversary ‘trip of a lifetime’ was in doubt. Scott Kishere, a filmmaker, said: ‘My wife and I have been told that our flight to Toronto has been cancelled. I have made over 100 attempts to contact them for a refund and they’re not answering. Until we get a refund, we do not have the money to rebook our trip of a lifetime.’
Consumer rights expert at Which?, Adam French, said the issue had caused ‘a lot of confusion and anxiety’.
He added: ‘British Airways must now put all resources necessary into sorting out this mess as soon as possible.’ BA said: ‘We’re extremely sorry that some of our customers are having difficulties trying to re-arrange their flights. Our teams have been working tirelessly to help as many of our customers as possible, in these unprecedented circumstances.’
Balpa also apologised to travellers, but said it had no alternative but to announce the strike dates after it became clear pilots would not accept BA’s final pay offer.
What are your rights if a flight is cancelled?
BA passengers will be offered a flight on the same day with a different carrier; the chance to rebook in the next 355 days; to use the value of the fare to fly to a different destination; or a full refund.
What if my flight home has been cancelled?
Again, you should be offered an alternative flight and, if necessary, food, drink and accommodation until the new departure time. If the airline is unable to do this, you have a right to buy your own and claim the money back.
Is there a right to compensation?
If you are booked on to an alternative flight which arrives later than the original, you can claim for the delay. Under EU rules, travellers who arrive more than three hours late in a journey of less than 1,500km (932 miles) are entitled to 250 euros (£240) each in compensation – on top of a refund – from the airline.
The figure is up to 600 euros (£577) each on long-haul flights. These rules relate to flights originating in the EU, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland. Compensation would be due if the problem results from a strike by the airline’s own staff, but not if they are the result of ‘extraordinary circumstances’, such as a strike by workers for a third party.
What if an airline fails to abide by the rules?
Airlines and airports should advise people how to make a complaint to an approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body. If they do not, complain to the Civil Aviation Authority. Alternatively, it may be possible to reclaim losses and expenses from your credit card company or bank using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act or the Chargeback system.
Which? offers advice and template letters on how to pursue this.