British Airways has underlined its defiance to break the cabin crew strikes by painting a ‘‘keep the flag flying’’ slogan across the fuselages of a number of its aircraft.
The message was placed on ten Boeing 777s at Heathrow and two at Gatwick, as members of Unite began the second day of a five-day strike.
The UK flag carrier said it operated more than 60 percent of its long-haul programme and more than 50 percent of short-haul flights from Heathrow, while services from Gatwick and London City ran as normal. This included running some level of service to 85 percent of its long-haul destinations and 100 percent of its short-haul destinations.
More than 60,000 customers will travel with BA every day this week despite the industrial action, the airline said in a statement.
BA was forced to cancel three of its Heathrow to New York flights yesterday. Other cancellations included four Heathrow-Paris flights, five of the nine Heathrow-Milan services and two Heathrow-Madrid flights.
Domestic services were more severely hit as the airline waged on travellers seeking overland alternatives. These included 15 flights between Heathrow and Manchester.
Meanwhile the union Unite is calling for Willie Walsh to step aside in the negotiations, in favour of Keith Williams, the airline’s chief financial officer, who they cite as easier to forge a relationship with.
They believe the dispute - which has increasingly centred on the personalities of the senior figures involved - could be brought to a swift halt if he were allowed to lead negotiations, rather than Mr Walsh.
Duncan Holley branch secretary of British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association (Bassa), which represents the airline’s cabin crew is quoted by The Telegraph saying: “Without Walsh a deal would be much easier to pick up because of the trust involved”.
“Keith Williams is well respected and there is a feeling within the community that we could forge a much better relationship with him. If Keith came to use with a deal, we would be much more likely to accept it.”
Williams is due to take over as BA’s chief executive when Walsh steps upstairs to head the new company which will be created when BA merges with Iberia later this year.
Meanwhile striking cabin crew are gathering again at Heathrow’s perimeter, where Unite leaders Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson will address them later.
Woodley said the strike would have been suspended if BA had returned travel concessions to staff who took part in strikes in March, an offer the union said remained on the table.
The union has announced two further five-day strikes after this week’s walkout ends, including one during the school half-term, starting on Bank Holiday Monday.