14-May-2010 10:45 AM

British Airways planning to fly more than 70% of customers during strike

British Airways announced (13-May-2010) it has published contingency plans for Unite’s strike period of 18-May-2010 to 22-May-2010, stating it will fly more than 60,000 customers each day. Details are as follows: [more]

  • London Gatwick and London City airports: All flights from both airports to operate normally during the entire strike period;
  • London Heathrow Airport: British Airways intends to operate more than 60% of long-haul flights and more than 50% of short-haul flights in the first strike period and will add to this schedule where possible. The airline will continue to fly to every short-haul destination on its network. The airline will operate most of its revised short-haul schedule at Heathrow using its own aircraft and cabin crew, but will supplement this by leasing up to eight aircraft, with pilots and cabin crew, from five airlines based in the UK and Europe;
  • Airline partners: Flights operated by subsidiary OpenSkies between Paris and New York and Paris and Washington will operate as normal. Flights operated by British Airways franchise partners (Comair in South Africa and Sun Air in Scandinavia) will operate as normal. Flights operated by other carriers (including oneworld Alliance partners) which have a BA codeshare flight number will operate as normal;
  • Freight: All dedicated cargo freighter services continue to operate as normal;
  • British Airways has also made arrangements with more than 50 other carriers so that it can rebook customers onto flights, if they had been due to travel on a BA service that is cancelled.

BA stated it is still available for further talks with Unite but wants customers to have early warning of its flying schedule to allow sufficient time for alternative travel arrangements. Unite General Secretary, Tony Woodley, responded stating the carrier should be concerned about the "real cost of this strike to the company", in terms of its reputation, rather than how many services it will be able to operate (Reuters, 13-May-2010).

  • Government responses: UK’s new Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, stated the latest series of strikes will be "self-defeating" for cabin crew and urged BA and Unite to reach an agreement (express.co.uk/telegraph.co.uk, 13-May-2010). Mr Hammond added that he hopes to discuss the matter with the carrier;
  • Airline responses: bmi confirmed (11-May-2010) plans to increase capacity on some routes during the strikes. In addition, bmi is offering BA Gold and Silver Executive Club members access to bmi-owned lounges, including the acclaimed Great British Lounge and the newly refurbished London Room at Heathrow Terminal 1. BA Executive Club members will also be offered a status match into bmi’s Diamond Club programme (eg gold to gold, silver to silver) and benefit from double miles on all bmi travel until the end of Jun-2010; [more]
  • Industry body responses: Air Transport Users Council urged the carrier to allow passengers to obtain a refund, irrespective of whether the service has been cancelled.

British Airways: “Unite’s leaders have deliberately targeted the busy half-term holidays to cause as much disruption as possible for hard working families looking to spend some well-earned time away. We are confident that many crew will ignore Unite’s pointless strike call and support the efforts of the airline to keep our customers flying. As the new government starts addressing the enormous economic challenges facing the country, it is sad that Unite’s priority is to seek to damage Britain’s links with the world. Our offer is very fair. It addresses all the concerns Unite has raised during 15 months of negotiations and Unite knows we have compromised many times in an effort to get a resolution. This strike action is entirely disproportionate. Our cabin crews are voting with their feet. Due to the numbers of cabin crew who are telling us they want to work normally since Unite’s latest strike call, the schedule will be slightly larger than we had originally anticipated. We will fly tens of thousands of customers around the world on business trips and family holidays every day that a strike takes place. Many thousands more can be rebooked onto alternative BA flights or onto rival airlines. I understand the deep frustration that customers who are booked from May 24 onwards must feel towards Unite. The union knew full well we could not publish a revised flying programme at Heathrow across a 23-day period in one go. We will do all we can to give customers more clarity about their specific flight once we start to understand how many cabin crew are willing to work as normal. We remain absolutely determined to resolve the dispute and our door remains open to Unite, day or night. It is not too late for Unite to call off this action and protect its members’ job security,” Willie Walsh, CEO. Source: British Airways, 13-May-2010.

Unite: “For all the bluster, Willie Walsh ducks the question all passengers want an answer to - is he prepared to resume negotiations or not? Or is he so determined to punish loyal and decent employees for supporting their union that he is prepared to push BA into the immense losses that will follow?” Tony Woodley, General Secretary. Source: Mail Online, 13-May-2010.

UK Government: “The strike is extremely bad news for the economy, for passengers and potentially for the airline and people who work for it. I do understand things can be difficult in a changing economy, but the reality is aviation is a global industry,” Philip Hammond, Transport Secretary. Source: telegrpah.co.uk, 13-May-2010.

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