Iberia Limits Strike Impact as Walsh Told Not to Draft BA Pilots

Spanish airline Iberia said it found seats elsewhere for 95 percent of the 40,000 customers due to be affected by a strike this week, as a U.K. union warned against using pilots at sister unit British Airways to break the action.

Madrid-based Iberia has rebooked 38,000 passengers with other carriers flying the same day after scrapping 431 services, or 39 percent of its schedule, through March 8. The other 2,000 can change departure date or receive a refund, the airline said.

Iberia plans to operate 85 percent of long-haul flights, 47 percent of domestic services and 62 percent of other short-haul trips during the second of three strikes over 3,807 job losses. The British Airline Pilots Association said in a statement that the cuts are disproportionate and that Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh mustn’t seek to involve crews at British Airways.

“Balpa is seriously concerned that Iberia’s inability to secure support amongst its own employees for its restructuring plans will engulf the Spanish flag carrier in industrial turmoil for months,” the union said. “Balpa stresses that it will resist any management move to draw BA pilots into Iberia operations.”

The first five-day strike last month cost about 3 million euros ($3.9 million) a day at IAG, as International Consolidated Airlines Group SA is known. During that walkout, Iberia managed to accommodate only 85 percent of passengers booked on canceled flights, leaving 10,000 people unable to travel as planned.

The task has been easier for this week’s strike period, since the greater advance warning meant fewer people had bought tickets before Iberia stopped taking reservations.

Iberia had an operating loss of 351 million euros last year, dragging IAG to a 23 million-euro shortfall. Walsh is seeking a 600 million-euro earnings turnaround by 2015.

The airline and its Spanish unions have entered a non-binding meditation process set to conclude by March 12. Labor groups are planning a third week-long strike from March 18.

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