British Airways Pilots Begin Ballot on Possible Industrial Action Affecting Summer Flights

A British Airways 747 at London's Heathrow Airport (Photo: AirlineGeeks | James Dinsdale)

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), the union which represents roughly 90 percent of British Airways pilots, has commenced balloting its members on possible industrial action over wage negotiations. The move comes after talks between the airline and the BALPA, Unite and GMB unions representing pilots, cabin crew and ground staff have so far failed to reach an agreement, raising the specter of strike action over the August summer holiday period.

While the cabin crew and ground staff are yet to seek direction from members on possible industrial action, BALPA has advised that its members have until July 22 to return their ballots. If the majority of pilots favor strike action, then BA’s schedule could be affected from August 5 at the earliest.

The general secretary of BALPA Brian Strutton told The Independent: “For the pilots that BALPA represents, it is quite simple: BA has been enormously profitable, and the employees should have a fair share of that success which, after all, they produce for the company.”

The airline made a profit of £1.7 billion in 2018 and the collective talks by the three union groups are the first in the airline’s history with over 40,000 employees represented. Media reports have said that pilots were offered an 11.5 percent increase over the next three years, though this has reportedly been withdrawn due to the strike action.

In response, a British Airways statement adds, “We are extremely disappointed that the pilots’ union, BALPA, has raised the prospect of a ballot for industrial action. We urge them to join us for mediation with the conciliation service ACAS, to reach an agreement and protect hard-working families planning their summer breaks. We believe our pay and benefits for pilots are among the best in the industry, with around 1,000 applications from pilots who want to move to us from other airlines every year.”

The dispute has also affected a social media campaign which utilized the online profiles of airline staff to promote the airline to their thousands of followers under an initiative called #BASmart. Key pilot personalities involved in the program have suspended their involvement in the campaign on Twitter and Instagram while the ballot is underway. #BASmart has built a positive online image for the airline with the posts of staff highlighting BA destinations and also imparting information about aviation and flying in general.

British Airways remains hopeful that flights will not be affected with the spokesperson saying: “A ballot for industrial action is just that. It does not mean there will be disruption at this stage. We remain open and flexible to discuss our pay proposal with our colleagues and unions.”

John Flett

John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content.

John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John is currently the course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.
John Flett