British Airways strike: all outbound flights cancelled on second day of pilot walkout

Exclusive: Union boss warns of ‘real breakdown between British Airways and its pilots’

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 10 September 2019 08:59

All British Airways outbound flights from Heathrow and Gatwick have been grounded by the pilots’ strike for a second day – wrecking the plans of almost 100,000 passengers and costing the airline up to £50m in lost revenue and additional costs.

A pay dispute between BA and the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) has caused the biggest shutdown in the carrier’s history.

The only departure on the British Airways schedule from Heathrow Terminal 5 is an afternoon flight to Cairo – operated by Air Belgium.

From Gatwick, BA passengers will travel to New York JFK on another third-party flight, on Evelop Airlines, a Spanish charter carrier. An Air Baltic flight to and from Riga will operate under a British Airways number.

Tonight a wave of long-haul BA flights from locations including Dubai, Nairobi and New York are due to depart shortly before midnight, with a near-normal service expected on Wednesday and later in the week.

But the union boss has warned that further disruption is inevitable unless British Airways returns to the table.

Brian Strutton, general secretary of Balpa, told The Independent: “Our dispute is a very serious one. It’s about pay and benefits, but underlying that is a real breakdown between British Airways and its pilots.

“We need to find a way of resolving both the dispute between us and and finding a way to rebuild that trust.

“Although we have a small gap between us in pound-note terms, for the last few months British Airways has said, ‘We are not going to budge at all unless pilots pay for any increase themselves’.” He said that “pilots simply won’t stand” self-financed pay rises.

“Our pilot members are very, very angry, and very, very resolved in their determination to see through this dispute to a successful conclusion for them.

“Equally British Airways has dug its heels in and is taking a bullying attitude now towards its pilots.

“I hope that we can drag British Airways back to the table with some genuine negotiations, because I know we can compromise our position.”

A BA spokesperson said: “We understand the frustration and disruption Balpa’s strike action has caused our customers.

“After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this.

“We remain ready and willing to return to talks with Balpa.”

Mr Strutton said that the union had hoped BA would operate more flights during the stoppage, saying: “We do genuinely regret the disruption to passengers. We wish that British Airways was running more of its operation to get people away.”

The BA spokesperson said: “Unfortunately, with no detail from Balpa on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100 per cent our flights.”

A 24-hour stoppage is planned for Friday 27 September. To avoid paying cash compensation to passengers, British Airways will need to inform them of cancellations on Wednesday or Thursday this week.

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