The pilots of British Airways have started their very first strike since the 1970s last Sunday. This has led to travel disruptions including the cancellation of hundreds of flights for about 200,000 passengers.
British Airways was forced to cancel nearly 100% of its flights for Monday and Tuesday after the pilot union went on a strike. The airline had to cancel almost all of its 1,700 flights to and from Gatwick and Heathrow.
The members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) have declared a 48-hour walkout following a pay dispute that has been running for quite some time now. The union is planning another strike on September 27 if the issue remains unsettled.
Balpa is said to represent more than 10,000 pilots in the United Kingdom. This figure makes up more than 85% of all commercial pilots there. This is the same union that represents UK-based Ryanair pilots who had their walkout last September 4 to 5. They also have plans to have another set of strikes in late September.
On Monday morning, the airline addressed the cancelation of flights on its website. Most of the canceled flights were scheduled to depart from North America. These include seven from New York’s JFK Airport and two flights each from other North American cities like Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto.
The two-day strike by Balpa is estimated to cost British Airways around £100m ($123.7 million). British Airways said that if the union plans to push through with another strike on September 27 strike, it would be in contact with its passengers in the next few weeks to let them know if their travel plans on or around that date will be affected.
British Airways has offered refunds and rebooking options to affected passengers. The Civil Aviation Authority has advised passengers affected by the flight cancellations that they have a legal right to make alternative travel arrangements at the expense of British Airways. This extends to traveling to their destination using a different airline.
“We understand the frustration and disruption of BALPA’s strike action have caused you. After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this,” the British Airways website said.
On their Twitter account, Balpa said they have sent a proposal to British Airways last Wednesday that would have put a stop to the strikes scheduled on Monday and Tuesday.
Both parties have expressed that they are willing to start new talks. However, flights scheduled on Monday and Tuesday were already scheduled to be cancelled.
The Balpa strike arose from a pay row that Balpa said it has been trying to work out with British Airways since late last year.
In a statement, Balpda said: “BA is making massive profits as a result of the hard work and dedication of staff, including because of sacrifices made during hard times. Thankfully BA is no longer in a fight for survival so, like the airline’s senior managers and directors, pilots deserve a small fraction of that profit via, for instance, a profit share scheme.”
“The company’s leaders, who themselves are paid huge salaries and have generous benefits packages, won’t listen, are refusing to negotiate and are putting profits before the needs of passengers and staff. It is time to get back to the negotiating table and put together a serious offer that will end this dispute,” said Balpa’s general secretary, Brian Strutton.
British Airways has offered an 11.5% pay rise over three years, which the company believes is a fair and generous offer. The company believes that if this offer is good enough for the unions of their cabin crew, ground staff and engineers, it should also be sufficient for its pilots.