BA strike threatens Easter travel chaos

Heathrow Terminal 5

[10th March 2008]

There could be travel chaos at airports this Easter now that talks to avert a strike by BA pilots have broken down.

Talks between the pilots’ union BALPA and British Airways broke down on Friday. Around 86% of BA pilots have voted in favour of a strike. By law the union needs to give seven days notice before a strike can begin, but this still leaves the very real possibility of an airline strike at Easter.

Easter is one of the busiest times of the year at UK airports. Around 400,000 people are expected to use Heathrow and Gatwick airport over the Easter holiday where BA has its main bases. But other airports are sure to be affected as BA flies to and from many other airports in the UK.

British Airways says it will apply for a court injunction to prevent a strike. “If strike dates are issued, we will act to protect our customers by applying for an injunction. We must act to protect our customers and explore every option to prevent the massive disruption a strike would cause,” the airline said in a press statement.

The dispute between BA and its pilots is over new terms and conditions for pilots in BA’s new airline OpenSkies. OpenSkies will offer transatlantic flights from Paris and Brussels to New York starting in June, with other routes expected to follow.

BA maintains that staff at the new airline must accept different terms and conditions as OpenSkies seeks to establish itself.

“OpenSkies is a new airline in a highly competitive market from Continental Europe to the US, and the terms and conditions for its staff must reflect that. BALPA says that terms and conditions for OpenSkies pilots must match those at BA as soon as the airline becomes profitable. This would generate cost and complexity that the new carrier could not sustain. OpenSkies would not be viable - restricting our ability as a company to compete by setting up a European business and putting at risk the creation of 350 new jobs,” BA argues.

BALPA’s response suggests the two sides are still far apart. “Despite BALPA’s willingness to accept the terms and conditions proposed by BA to ensure the establishment of the new OpenSkies service, BA was not prepared to provide the employment security and career development opportunities which are at the heart of the dispute,” the union says.

Written by: Nick Purdom


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BA Strike Threatens Easter Travel Chaos