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

    Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

    £14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Network Executive - Adrenalin Sports - OTE £21,000

    £19000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you looking for an exciting...

    Guru Careers: Product Manager / Product Marketing Manager / Product Owner

    COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Product Manager / Product Owner is required to jo...

    Guru Careers: Carpenter / Maintenance Operator

    £25k plus Benefits: Guru Careers: A Carpenter and Maintenance Operator is need...

    Day In a Page

    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
    The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

    The haunting of Shirley Jackson

    Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
    Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

    Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

    These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
    Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

    A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

    Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

    Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
    HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

    Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
    Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

    'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

    Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
    Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

    The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

    Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen