British Airways cabin crew today lost their High Court bid for a permanent injunction preventing the airline from imposing cost-cutting proposals.
BA argues it is entitled unilaterally to reduce cabin crew complements on board its Worldwide and Eurofleet flights as these are not terms of individual cabin crew members' contracts.
But the Unite union said it was in breach of contract by imposing the changes as the existing crew complements were fixed by collective agreements with the unions and were "expressly incorporated" into individual contracts.
Giving his ruling in London today, judge Sir Christopher Holland said they were not incorporated and so the claim failed at the outset.
BA said in a statement: "We are extremely pleased with today's High Court ruling that the modest changes we made to onboard crew numbers on flights from Heathrow were reasonable, did not breach crew contracts and can remain in place.
"Unite's central demand over the last three months has been that we reverse these changes, despite the severe financial impact this would have on the company at a time when we are facing a second year of record annual losses.
"Unite's arguments as to why the changes should be reversed have been considered in great detail by the court - and rejected.
"Unite brought this case to court. We believe it should reflect on the court's decision rather than impose an unnecessary strike on the travelling public.
"Talks continue under the auspices of the TUC."
Unite had agreed "unwillingly" to work the new schedules pending today's decision on 10 test cases - representative of about 5,400 claimants who are among 13,400 cabin crew employed by BA.
It is re-balloting its 12,000 cabin crew members at BA for industrial action, with a result due on Monday.
Its counsel, John Hendy QC, told the judge that the changes would "materially and detrimentally affect the health and well-being of staff and passengers on board the flights".
BA's counsel, Bruce Carr QC, maintained that, while there would be a modest increase in work output for cabin crew, there was no safety or security risk and the granting of an injunction would be a "commercial catastrophe" in the face of global recession and rising fuel prices.
BA said that the new crewing levels only brought it into line with what competitors were already providing and what the airline introduced - with the union's agreement - at Gatwick.