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British Airways STRIKE causes travel misery

British Airways STRIKE causes travel misery

The first-ever strike by British Airways pilots will cripple flights from today (Monday), causing travel disruption for tens of thousands of passengers.

Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) will walk out for 48 hours in a long-running dispute over pay, with a further strike set for September 27 if the row remains unresolved.

BA has told passengers that if they have a flight booked on Monday and Tuesday, it is likely they will not be able to travel as planned.

Customers have been offered refunds or the option to re-book to another date of travel or alternative airline.

BA operates up to 850 flights a day, with most expected to be cancelled, affecting up to 145,000 passengers.

The airline has said it was ‘ready and willing’ to resume talks with the union, but there is little or no sign of the deadlock being broken.

The strike chaos could even continue throughout the Christmas period, with pilots’ union Balpa having a mandate for action until January.

Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: ‘British Airways needs to wake up and realise its pilots are determined to be heard.

‘They’ve previously taken big pay cuts to help the company through hard times. Now BA is making billions of pounds of profit, its pilots have made a fair, reasonable and affordable claim for pay and benefits.

‘Balpa has consistently offered up chances for the company to negotiate a way forward. British Airways must now put the needs of its staff and passengers first and accept that its pilots will not be bullied or fobbed off.

‘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.

‘This strike will have cost the company considerably more than the investment needed to settle this dispute.

‘It is time to get back to the negotiating table and put together a serious offer that will end this dispute.’

Balpa said the strike will cost BA £40 million a day, claiming the dispute could be settled for £5 million.

A Balpa statement said: ‘BA’s belligerent attitude is going to cost them, their shareholders and their passengers far more than resolving this dispute via negotiation would. It is precisely that attitude which has caused so much anger and frustration amongst BA’s own staff members.

‘Fundamentally BA pilots have lost trust and confidence in their management through relentless cost and cornercutting.

‘BA need to recognise that fact, resolve this dispute and work to regain the trust and confidence of their staff.’

BA has offered an 11.5% pay rise over three years, which it says would take the pay of some captains to over £200,000.

The union says pilots took sacrifices in hard times to support their company and deserve a ‘small fraction’ of BA’s profits.

BA’s 4,300 pilots were emailed on Friday and warned that taking part in the walkout would be a ‘serious breach’ of their employment contracts and they would lose the travel perk for three years.

Staff who have been at the airline for more than six months can buy tickets for themselves and up to three family members for ten per cent of the full fare plus taxes.

But in the email, Angela Williams, BA’s director of people, said: ‘Any existing bookings for travel post the date when you took strike action will be cancelled.’

Striking pilots who live abroad and ‘commute’ by aircraft to either Heathrow or Gatwick – believed to number about 1,000 – will also lose their entitlement to heavily discounted flights from October 31.

The punishment will see some pilots spending thousands more each year getting to work. Under the perk, a pilot who commuted from LA would be able to buy a return economy ticket for flights in November for £323 – a saving of £367.

It is understood that six out of Balpa’s 14 senior reps commute from overseas, including Mark Keane, the chairman of the British Airways Company Council – Balpa’s BA arm – and a key militant behind the walkout. Keane, 27, lives in Dublin and flies to Heathrow to work.

In a further bid to break the strike, any pilot who turns up for duty on strike days will still be paid their so-called ‘flying pay’ allowance, worth £9 an hour, even if their rostered flight is axed. BA said: ‘We make no apology for doing everything we can to protect our customers from further disruption.’

Q&A: Why are pilots striking and what do I do if I am affected?

Why are the pilots striking, and when?

Balpa announced the strikes on August 23 after 93% of its members rejected an 11.5% pay rise across three years.

More than 3,000 Balpa members who fly for BA – including captains paid £167,000 a year on average – are set to strike on September 9, 10 and 27.

Who will be affected? 

The walkouts could trigger the cancellation of around 850 BA flights on each of the three strike dates.

The action by the pilots could ruin the travel plans of 450,000 people.

What are your rights if a flight is cancelled?

BA passengers will be offered a flight on the same day with a different carrier; the chance to rebook in the next 355 days; to use the value of the fare to fly to a different destination; or a full refund.

What if my flight home has been cancelled?

Again, you should be offered an alternative flight and, if necessary, food, drink and accommodation until the new departure time. If the airline is unable to do this, you have a right to buy your own and claim the money back.

Is there a right to compensation?

If you are booked on to an alternative flight which arrives later than the original, you can claim for the delay.

Under EU rules, travellers who arrive more than three hours late in a journey of less than 1,500km (932 miles) are entitled to 250 euros (£240) each in compensation – on top of a refund – from the airline.

The figure is up to 600 euros (£577) each on long-haul flights. These rules relate to flights originating in the EU, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland.

Compensation would be due if the problem results from a strike by the airline’s own staff, but not if they are the result of ‘extraordinary circumstances’, such as a strike by workers for a third party.

What if an airline fails to abide by the rules?

Airlines and airports should advise people how to make a complaint to an approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body.

If they do not, complain to the Civil Aviation Authority.

Alternatively, it may be possible to reclaim losses and expenses from your credit card company or bank using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act or the Chargeback system.

Which? offers advice and template letters on how to pursue this.