BA puts cost of strike at £7m a day as passenger numbers fall

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The Independent Online

Each day of the strike by British Airways cabin crew is costing the airline £7m, taking the total cost of the latest wave of walkouts to £98m so far.

The beleaguered carrier revealed yesterday that passenger numbers fell in May by 16.4 per cent to 2.37 million, pulled down by industrial action in the last two weeks of the month. Revenue passenger kilometres – a measure of the volume of passengers carried – dropped by 11.5 per cent.

The latest phase of the industrial action ended last night but it will start again tomorrow with the last of three five-day stoppages. So far, all flights to and from Gatwick and London City airports have operated as normal and about 70 per cent of long-haul and 55 per cent of short-haul services from Heathrow have been unaffected.

BA said it planned to schedule more flights next week as "more crew members ignore the strike and report for duty". A spokesman for the airline added: "We we are planning to fly about 80 per cent of our long-haul programme, including all JFK services and also all South African flights as we approach the World Cup."

The most recent round of talks with the Unite trade union broke down on Tuesday night. The dispute began more than a year ago over loss-making BA's plans to reform jobs, pay and conditions for cabin staff. But although a putative deal has been reached in the original dispute, the two sides are in a stand-off over a string of disciplinary actions and the withdrawal of travel perks from striking workers.

At Unite's policy conference in Manchester this week, its joint general- secretary Tony Woodley warned of further walkouts this summer if the airline management refused to compromise. The union's 12,000 BA cabin crew members could be balloted again as early as next week to renew the strike mandate.

BA averted two planned strikes by taking its case to the courts. The first threatened action – a 12-day walkout over Christmas – was cancelled at the last minute after a judge ruled it was unlawful because the ballot had included staff members who had taken voluntary redundancy.

The first tranche of what was to be a four-phase strike starting in May was cancelled after a court upheld BA's claim that the union had not complied with rules on publishing ballot results.

That judgment was overturned on appeal and the remaining three of the four five-day strikes went ahead. Two strikes totalling seven days in March cost BA £43m.