Air passengers face travel misery as BA strike starts

British Airways cabin crew started a five-day strike Monday, throwing travel plans for thousands of passengers into disarray after last-ditch efforts to avert the action collapsed.

Staff walked out at midnight (2300 GMT) in the first of a series of strikes in a long-running industrial standoff.

The airline rebuffed late Sunday an 11th-hour offer from Britain's biggest union to call off the walkout in exchange for meeting a key demand, accusing the union of refusing to meet for talks.

No discussions had been held between the two sides in the dispute since they broke down on Saturday.

Tony Woodley, joint head of the union Unite, came forward with the last-minute offer to halt the action.

"As a sign of goodwill and good faith I am making this offer now to (BA chief executive) Willie Walsh," he told reporters.

"Willie, turn round and reinstate our people's travel (benefits) ... and this union will call off" the strike.

But BA responded it had already offered to hand back travel concessions as part of a deal.

"We have already offered to reinstate travel concessions to cabin crew once all elements of our offer have been implemented," said a statement from the airline.

It also accused Woodley of "negotiating through the media" rather than talking to them directly through ACAS, an organisation dedicated to resolving employment disputes.

"We had agreed to a request from ACAS to meet (Sunday) afternoon and are surprised that Unite did not take advantage of this," said the airline.

While BA and Unite have reached broad agreement on pay, the sticking point is now the heavily discounted flights available to off-duty cabin crew - key perks which have been taken away from workers who have gone on strike.

Negotiations to try and halt the planned strike were abandoned on Saturday after dozens of noisy protestors stormed the building where talks were being held.

Walsh was harangued by protestors, television pictures showed, and police said they had to escort him from the building in London after the security breach.

Walsh has faced accusations that he is trying to break the unions at BA and Unite accuses BA of imposing changes on cabin crew and refusing to negotiate openly and fairly.

The BA chief executive, though, insists that the airline is struggling for its very existence.

Monday's strike is hot on the heels of BA posting a record annual pre-tax loss of 531 million pounds (609 million euros, 765 million dollars) on slumping sales.

The airline, which is slashing costs and merging with Spanish rival Iberia in a bid to return to profitability, has been hit hard by the global economic downturn which has decreased demand for air travel.

It also faced a tough start to the current financial year due to the recent closure of airspace across Europe caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano. A week-long shutdown in April was the biggest in Europe since World War II.

BA staff are also planning two further five-day strikes starting on May 30 and June 5.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Life and Style
food + drink
News
i100
Sport
football
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas