British Airways Pledges to Carry All Passengers During Strike

  • Small number of Heathrow flights may be merged, carrier says
  • Two-day action starting Tuesday will be BA’s first since 2010
Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

British Airways promised to carry all passengers booked to fly during a two-day walkout over pay by cabin crew next week, though some people will have to catch different departures.

The “vast majority” of services to and from London Heathrow, where the protesting crews are based, will operate as normal, and flights from the U.K. capital’s Gatwick and City airports will be unaffected, British Airways said in a statement Friday.

“As part of our contingency plan, we will be merging a very small number of flights to and from Heathrow,” BA said. “This will mean some customers will travel slightly earlier or later in the day than their original booking.”

Some 200,000 people are due to fly on Tuesday and Wednesday, when the strike is scheduled, and tickets can still be booked as normal, according to the airline, which said it’s open to dialog if the Unite union calls off the walkout.

So-called “mixed fleet” cabin crew, who work on both short- and long-haul flights from Heathrow, this week rejected a revised offer from BA that had helped avert disruption planned for the Christmas holiday.

Unite says it called next week’s strike because members must legally take action within 28 days of voting for a walkout unless an employer agrees to extend the mandate to allow for negotiations, something BA declined to do. The company says the union could have extended its strike rights via a fresh ballot.

About 2,500 of the 4,500 cabin crew who are on mixed-fleet contracts -- out of about 16,000 flight attendants employed across BA -- are Unite members and could potentially strike. A walkout would be the first since 22 days of action in 2010, after which crew accepted a deal including drastic pay cuts for new staff.

Salaries for mixed-fleet employees have been advertised as worth between 21,000 pounds and 25,000 pounds ($26,000-$31,000) a year, but in practice begin at 12,000 pounds plus 3 pounds for each hour of flying, Unite reckons.

British Airways says it has proposed “a fair and reasonable pay increase,” in line with rival carriers. Its first offer was worth 2 percent initially, extending to 7 percent over three years. Details of the package rejected by Unite members haven’t been made public.

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