16-Mar-2010 9:48 AM

British Airways aiming to handle 60% of passengers during first strike period

British Airways published (15-Mar-2010) contingency plans to allow 60% of passengers to keep flying through Unite's cabin crew strike period of 20-Mar-2010 to 22-Mar-2010.

  • First strike period: BA aims to fly around 45,000 customers each day during the period. Passengers unable to travel on their original flight will be offered seats on alternative BA flights or on services operated by other airlines. BA will operate all long-haul flights to/from London Gatwick and more than half of short-haul flights at the airport. All flights to/from London City Airport will be unaffected by the strike. At London Heathrow Airport, the airline will continue to operate more than 60% of its long-haul flights during the first three days of action. The airline will operate some of its own short-haul flights at Heathrow, and will supplement its schedule by leasing up to 22 aircraft with pilots and crews from eight different airlines based in the UK and Europe. This will enable the airline to operate around 30% of its short-haul schedule. BA has also agreed with 40 other carriers that customers can be rebooked free of charge during the actual strike period onto their flights if they had been due to travel on a BA flight which has been cancelled. Flights operated by subsidiary, OpenSkies, and franchise partners, Comair and Sun Air, will operate as normal, as will flights operated by other carriers which have a BA codeshare flight number. All dedicated cargo freighter services will also continue to operate as normal;
  • Second strike period: BA stated that, at this stage, the vast majority of flights between 23-Mar-2010 and 31-Mar-2010 remain in the schedule and it will update passengers due to fly during the second strike period (27-Mar-2010 to 30-Mar-2010) after the first strike period has ended;
  • Negotiations: BA added it is still available for further talks with Unite; [more]
  • Cost of strike action: Citigroup estimates the seven day strike could cost BA up to GBP105 million (Bloomberg, 15-Mar-2010);
  • Government response: British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, condemned the planned strike action, stated it is “unjustified” and “deplorable” (Reuters, 15-Mar-2010/AAP/Dow Jones, 16-Mar-2010). Mr Brown, who reportedly spoke with Unite’s leaders over the weekend, called for BA and Unite to find a resolution to allow the action to be cancelled;
  • Unite response: Unite responded (15-Mar-2010) to BA' schedule stating, "BA should enter this schedule for the Booker Prize for fiction. It is an accomplished work of fantasy". Unite joint leader, Tony Woodley, meanwhile stated in response to Mr Brown's comments that he did not blame him for trying to bring BA and Unite together to resolve the dispute, but "it is rather unfortunate that politicians of all parties always want to kick the unions and kick the employees when in actual fact it's my members who've been kicked here"; [more - response to schedule] [more - response to Prime Minister's comments]
  • Other carrier’s responses: Virgin Atlantic stated there has been a “definite, sustained” increase in bookings as a result of the issue;
  • Other responses: the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) stated the strike action could damage the UK’s economic recovery plans (HR Magazine, 15-Mar-2010).

British Airways: "We are deeply sorry that our customers are the innocent victims of this cynical attack on their travel plans by the leaders of Unite. We will continue to try to prevent this strike taking place, but we have reached a point when we must now offer some clarity to our customers who have waited with great patience since Friday when the strike dates were first announced. Due to the numbers of cabin crew who have called in to offer their services over the weekend, the schedule will be slightly larger than we had originally anticipated. Despite the desire of Unite's leadership to ground the airline, the flag will continue to fly," Willie Walsh, CEO. Source: British Airways, 15-Mar-2010.

UK Government: “It's the wrong time, it's unjustified, it's deplorable, we should not have a strike. It's not in the company's interest, it's not in the workers' interest and it's certainly not in the national interest… I hope that this strike will be called off…We have got to find a way in which the two sides can get together,” Gordon Brown, Prime Minister. Source: Reuters, 15-Mar-2010/AAP, 16-Mar-2010.

UK Conservative Party: “How can you talk about protecting jobs and beating the recession when you are so reliant on this increasingly militant union that is intent on bringing a British company to its knees?” Eric Pickles, Chairman. Source: AAP, 16-Mar-2010.

London Chamber of Commerce and Industry: “This reckless action on the part of the union could not have come at a worse time for BA and the UK economy. Just as businesses are struggling to pull themselves out of recession and keep their employees in their jobs, we hear that New York has caught up with London in the stakes to be the leading global financial centre. This unnecessary action risks undermining London's competitiveness still further,” Colin Stanbridge, CEO. Source: HR Magazine, 15-Mar-2010.

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