Union workers at British Airways (BA) voted 81 per cent in favour of industrial action over pay and conditions. As many as 700,000 travellers could be affected if a strike, which is expected to last as long as ten days, goes ahead. A strike would be the first national walk out of BA cabin crew for a decade.
Executives at BA said it would not allow the union “to ruin this company” and promised it would “do everything we can” to keep a basic service flying. Experts estimate that the company could lost as much as £25 million a day if the strike go ahead.
At the time of this blog, the dates of strike action are expected to be released after meetings have been held. It is unclear how long, when, and how widespread any strike would be, leaving thousands of travellers with little idea how they will be affected. It has promised not to call for a walk out during the Easter school holidays, which start in most parts of the country on the 2nd April.
BA has promised to keep as many planes flying as possible, and has been training up ground crew and pilots to take on the roles to cover for any striking cabin crew. The dispute revolves around BA’s decision to reduce the number of staff on long-haul from 15 to 14, forcing the senior cabin crew to no longer just oversee the staff, but to start serving meals and drinks as well. The average pay for senior cabin crew on a long-haul flight is £56,325, making them some of the best paid staff in the industry.
Looking to cut financial losses, BA’s chief executive, Willie Walsh, has threatened to withdraw the generous travel perk enjoyed by all staff. Any full-time member of staff who has worked for the company for more than six months can fly anywhere, on standby, for just 10% of the cover price of the ticket, plus taxes. Further adding to the airlines losses, this perk is extended not just to staff, but also to their family.
Travel experts said that even if no strike went ahead, BA’s reputation was damaged and it would lose customers. Since the strike ballot was announced last month, people clicking on BA flights on the Travelsupermarket website have fallen by 19%.