British Airways is facing three days of strikes by pilots in September after talks to avoid industrial action failed.
The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has announced strikes on 9, 10 and 27 September, claiming 93 per cent of ballots returned voted in favour of the walk-outs.
According to BALPA, the strike announcement comes after “several days of ACAS talks” in which it put forward “a number of packages” aimed at resolving the dispute over pay. The union claims BA did not accept any of its proposals and that its most recent counter offer “will not gain the support of anywhere near a majority of its pilots”.
BALPA calculates that one day of strike action will cost the airline around £40 million and three days £120 million – far more than the estimated £5 million cost of the union’s pay proposal.
The union says more strikes could be announced throughout the rest of the year unless the dispute is resolved.
In a statement, the union said: “British Airways is an extremely profitable and successful company, and pilots have been proud to play their part in that. In 2018 the company announced profits of £2 billion. Over recent years BA pilots have made sacrifice after sacrifice to assist the company, such as taking a pay cut, productivity increases, closing the final salary pension scheme, giving up annual leave days, a new rostering system and reducing flying pay.
“In what is British Airways’ centenary year, this will be the very first time its pilots will go on strike. They do so as a last resort and with enormous frustration at the way the business is now being run. Our ballot is valid until January, and more dates may be announced until such time as this matter is resolved.”
Responding to the strike threat, BA said “it is completely unacceptable that BALPA is destroying the travel plans of tens of thousands of our customers with this unjustifiable strike action”. The carrier claims it is offering an 11.5 per cent pay rise over three years, “well above the UK’s current rate of inflation”.
The airline is pre-emptively making changes to its flight schedule for the 9, 10 and 27 September, but is looking at options for wet leasing aircraft and crew from other airlines to reduce disruption. It is also in discussions with partner carriers to operate larger planes to accommodate passengers affected by any BA cancellations.
BA CityFlyer, Sun-Air and Comair services will not be affected.
BA has started informing passengers of pre-emptive cancellations on the strike days, but some due to travel on other dates in September were told their flights were cancelled in error. Many customers have said on social media that they are still struggling to get clarification from the airline’s customer services team as it tries to deal with a backlog of requests.
The airline has said any customer who booked another flight or incurred extra costs after receiving a cancellation email in error would be entitled to a refund, but it will likely take longer to get a response due to the backlog of calls.