British Airways Cancels 1,700 Flights As Pilots Strike
British Airways (BA) pilots began a two-day strike on Monday (September 9), grounding nearly all of its flights and disrupting thousands of passengers in a dispute over pay.
The airline, part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), cancelled 1,700 flights to and from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Monday September 9 and Tuesday September 10 ahead of action by British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) members in BA's first-ever pilot strike.
"I am really sorry that the cynical actions of the pilots' union have put us in his position," BA chief executive Alex Cruz told BBC television. "It is by all accounts an own goal. It's going to punish customers, it's going to punish our brand, it's going to punish the rest of the colleagues."
BA has offered its pilots an 11.5% pay rise over three years, which it said would take the pay of its highest-earning captains from £167,000, plus £16,000 in allowances, to just over £200,000.
Its pilots on average earn around £90,000 a year.
BALPA wants the pay deal to include profit sharing.
"British Airways is going through some good times, we want to share in those profits just as we shared the pain in the bad times," BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton told BBC television.
He had said pilots were willing to compromise, but BA was not prepared to "budge".
Eleventh Hour Proposal
The airline dismissed a new offer by BALPA last week as an "eleventh hour inflated proposal" that was not made in good faith. BALPA had said that it would have called off the strikes this week if BA had engaged with the offer.
BA's Cruz said 11.5% was "way above" inflation and the offer already recognised that BA was making money. UK inflation stood at 2.1% in July.
Cruz said that the airline was prepared to negotiate.
"The commitment of everyone at British Airways is to get over this particular dispute as quickly as possible and we urge the union to sit down with us as quickly as we can so we can reach an agreement," he told BBC radio.
He said it was a BA dispute and it would be resolved by the carrier rather than IAG.
The airline said it had no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, and had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so had no option but to cancel nearly 100% of its flights.
Following strikes on September 9 and 10, another day of industrial action is scheduled for 27 September.
BA has been criticised over its communications with passengers ahead of the strike, which has caused thousands of people to change their travel plans.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is investigating the airline after it enraged some travellers by wrongly telling them their flights had been cancelled.
The regulator also reminded the airline to tell customers their rights. During the strikes, BA must offer passengers reimbursement for cancelled flights, alternate travel arrangements under comparable conditions or a new flight at a later date.
A spokeswoman for prime minister Boris Johnson has urged both sides to end the dispute.