Almost all British Airways flights have been grounded for 48 hours as 4,000 pilots stage their first ever strike over a pay dispute and cost-cutting at the U.K.’s flag carrier.
- Some 1,700 flights have been cancelled amid the disruption, while tens of thousands of passengers have been told not to travel to airports. The airline carries 145,000 people a day, according to its website.
- BA has been locked in a dispute with its pilots over pay. Pilots rejected the offer of a 11.5% pay rise over three years in August but unions representing other airline staff accepted the deal
- Instead, pilots union Balpa claims that its members should get a greater share of the IAG’s profits—BA’s parent company. The airline saw profits rise 9% to $3.5 billion last year.
- BA’s CEO Alex Cruz says the firm has not cut costs, adding that the airline has never received so much investment. On the latest strikes, the firm apologised and added: “Unfortunately, with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100 per cent our flights.”
- The action is expected to cost the airline an estimated $49 million a day.
- Customers took to social media to vent their angry at the airline’s over its handling of the strike:
Crucial quote: “BA has lost the trust and confidence of pilots because of cost-cutting and the dumbing down of the brand… management want to squeeze every last penny out of customers and staff,” said Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots union, Balpa, told the BBC.
Key background: Pilots rejected a pay rise of 11.5% over three years, which BA says could have seen captains’ salaries reach $246,000 a year. The airline says the offer was “fair and generous.” Other unions representing staff members such as cabin crew, engineers and ground staff, have accepted the pay rise. Both union leaders and BA have said they are willing to hold talks, however more strikes are set for September 27 if an agreement is not reached.
The airline celebrated its 100th anniversary on August 25 but has faced mounting customer dissatisfaction over cuts to its onboard service, IT mishaps and a $225 million fine after hackers stole customers details.