Simon Calder: A flight from reality as it gets difficult to discern fact from propaganda

The revenue from the passengers was negligible; their value was as a weapon

The winners in the bitter British Airways cabin crew dispute were celebrating last night: executives from Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Flybe and BMI watched in gleeful amazement as BA consolidated its reputation for discord and unreliability.

The second day of the strike saw the scrap between BA's management and the union, Unite, become even more personal and poisonous. It was characterised by a war of words waged on a very strange battlefield. The union took the high ground of the 24-hour news broadcasters, while British Airways remained in the management trench, confining its attacks to an occasional release on the video-hosting site, Youtube.

The first casualty of war is arithmetic, and looking at the weekend's pronouncements you might imagine the two sides were describing entirely different events. On Saturday, for example, Unite announced that only one third of BA's normal flights had departed, and the average payload on each was just 14 passengers. That pointed to a total of 3,000 passengers being carried, compared with the 49,000 BA said it handled.

BA came up with "breaking news" about the airline reinstating a squadron of long-haul flights. The passenger-in-the-terminal could have been impressed by a newsflash that asserted the airline was now able to operate flights to Cape Town, Hong Kong and Miami – little knowing the planes were all going to be taking off anyway, on "positioning" flights to pick up inbound crews and passengers. When BA found it had more cabin crew than expected, they were assigned to these flights, which were then opened to the public. The revenue from the handful of passengers was negligible; the main value to the airline was a weapon in the game of claim and counter-claim.

Unite won the propaganda war. "By 2pm, only one flight to JFK airport had departed – normally there are five," reported the union on Saturday. Techincally correct but semantically sly. The five departures referred to the entire day. In fact, BA got three out of the five planes on its premier route off the ground. Unite also persuaded Sky News that cabin crews were getting off arriving aircraft and immediately joining the strike. While those crew may have gone straight to the picket line, they could not strike because they were off duty.

The soundbite of the day belonged to Unite's Tony Woodley. He used an interview on Sky News to deplore BA's use of its arch-rival Ryanair on flights from Gatwick. "God help this company," said Mr Woodley, though you could sense he felt the Almighty had already sided with him.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
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?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Print Designer - High Wycombe - Permanent £28K

    £25000 - £28000 per annum + 24 days holiday, bonus, etc.: Ashdown Group: Print...

    Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

    £20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager

    £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer and Brand Manager required for ...

    Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator

    £25000 - £35000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator A...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

    Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

    Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

    After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones