For the first time in British Airways history, 3,900 pilots have gone on strike that started at midnight, September 9, after months of meetings and negotiations between airline and union broke down over pay and conditions.
The 48-hour walkout by pilots has resulted in at least 1,700 flights being canceled for Monday and Tuesday. Should no progress occur between airline and union, pilots will stage a third strike on September 27.
The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) gave the go-ahead to walk out after 93 percent of its members decided to go ahead with a strike back in July after months of negotiations fell short of BALPA’s expectations.
British Airways released a statement early Monday morning condemning the decision by the union and its workforce, the airline stated:
“We understand the frustration and disruption of BALPA’s strike action has caused you. After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this.”
“Unfortunately, with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100 per cent our flights.”
British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz requested a new set of talks with the union in a Sky News interview. He said: “We want to resolve this dispute as quickly as possible for our customers and, frankly, for everyone that works at British Airways.”
BALPA also attempted to get its message out early onto Twitter to try to stem the forthcoming tirade of angry passengers by saying that they put forward a proposal to the airline a week before that would “enable us to call off the strikes for Monday and Tuesday.”
The General Secretary of BALPA, Brian Strutton, said: “It is time to get back to the negotiating table and put together a serious offer that will end this dispute.”
“BA has lost the trust and confidence of pilots because of cost-cutting and the dumbing down of the brand… management want to squeeze every last penny out of customers and staff,” Mr. Strutton continued.
According to BALPA’s figures, the difference between what is on offer from the airline and what the union is requesting is approximately £5 million. A fracture of the cost that British Airways will incur with a day’s strike action expecting to cost up to £40 million from lost revenue.
The union turned down a proposed 11.5 percent pay rise for the forthcoming three years with the reasoning being they feel their workers are being shortchanged when pilots took a pay and productivity cut 10 years ago during the airline’s loss-making years. Last year British Airways announced a record profit of £2bn.
Pilots would also like a better profit share-scheme that other major airlines offer, as well as a company share-scheme that most major UK companies offer to employees.
All in all, British Airways will operate around 10 flights on Monday piloted by either non-union members or management pilots that have been pulled out of their office and gone back to the flight deck.
As a result, London Heathrow will run without any of the normal delays that crew from all over the globe would expect when operating into one of the busiest airports in the world, and the people of London will experience a quieter day overhead from the reduced air traffic.
Only 10 flights are listed as departing from Heathrow Terminal 5 today due to the BA pilots’ strike. pic.twitter.com/Fb33ZWJQfR
— Simon Jones (@SimonJonesNews) September 9, 2019
The majority of the 270 aircraft British Airways operate will be parked up at their London Heathrow and Gatwick hubs, with others scattered around the world. Out of the 12 Airbus A380s, three are understood to be at their home in Heathrow. A handful of other aircraft have been stored in other airports for the coming days.
The strike is expected to continue until midnight on Tuesday, September 10. Discussions will likely restart and continue towards the third strike date with the hope of a resolution before pilots walk out again on September 27.
British Airways was hoping for the year 2019 to be a major milestone in the airline’s history where it celebrates its centenary with 100 years of associated airline operations with a major marketing campaign to boost the company image and attract costumers.
However, it is most likely that the year 2019 will be looked back on as the first time their pilots went on strike, damaging further the airline’s reputation among passengers which has been hit by IT outages, baggage issues and cabin crew striking in the past.
Earlier this week the intelligence company Alva ranked British Airways 55th out of a possible 65 in a reputation index. It commented that the airline is facing ‘an identity crisis.’
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