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BA says to fly 70 percent of passengers during strikes

British Airways on Thursday vowed to fly 70 percent of passengers during a five-day strike planned by members of its cabin crew that is due to start next week.

"BA plans to fly more than 70 percent of customers," the airline said in a statement published on Thursday.

Union leaders had on Monday announced that cabin crew were to stage fresh strikes in May and June, following industrial action which brought misery to travellers earlier this year.

Workers will launch four five-day strikes from May 18-22, May 24-28, May 30-June 3 and June 5-9, following action in March in a long-running dispute over pay and conditions, the Unite union said.

The announcement came after workers overwhelmingly rejected a BA offer aimed at heading off new action.

"British Airways has today published contingency plans for Unite's strike period of May 18, 19, 20, 21 and 22 and will fly more than 60,000 customers each day," the airline's statement added.

BA said that all flights at London's Gatwick and London City airports would operate as normal. At London's Heathrow - the world's busiest international air hub - it intends operating more than 60 percent of longhaul flights and more than 50 percent of shorthaul flights.

"Unite's leaders have deliberately targeted the busy (school) half-term holidays to cause as much disruption as possible for hard working families looking to spend some well earned time away," BA chief executive Willie Walsh said on Thursday.

"We are confident that many crew will ignore Unite's pointless strike call and support the efforts of the airline to keep our customers flying," he added.

The strikes are a major financial blow for BA, which has already warned investors that it expects to notch up a record loss in the current financial year owing to weak demand for air travel amid a fragile economic recovery.

BA is meanwhile attempting to merge with Spanish rival Iberia as the pair attempt to improve their flagging fortunes.