BA pilots urge rivals to cash in

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The Independent Online
British Airways pilots threatening an all-out strike next week intensified pressure on the airline yesterday with a move to try and have its routes handed to rival operators.

The pilots' union, Balpa, asked other aircrew organisations to encourage their airlines to take over BA's vital take-off and landing "slots" at airports around the world if the dispute goes ahead.

"The indications are that we will have some success," said Chris Darke, the union's general secretary. "We have high hopes that there will be an increased number of flights by a number of major airlines so that passengers do not have to suffer because of this action."

Three thousand flight crew are due to begin what is potentially the most damaging stoppage since the miners' strike at 4am on 16 July - the day BA is expected to declare record profits exceeding pounds 600m.

The dispute is chiefly over rejection of a 3.6 per cent pay offer and what are seen as company efforts to scale down salaries. But a secondary issue surfaced last night: BA's insistence on removing bunk beds from Jumbo jetsused by air crew for an "in-flight kip" on long-haul routes.

The airline said it had offered the pilots two club-class seats on its Boeing 747 Classic fleet for resting pilots, or a first-class "flying bed" on aircraft that are fitted with the luxury new accommodation. This arrangement would continue until next March, the earliest date thatbunk beds could be built into the flight deck.

Robert Ayling, the airline's chief executive, said that BA is working on a range of contingency plans, but admitted that passengers would be hit if the strike goes ahead. "If there is a strike we cannot fly without pilots," he said.

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