Thousands of British Airways passengers have had trips cancelled or disrupted after cabin crew began a five-day strike. Many flights in and out of the Heathrow Airport, the airline’s main hub
BA said it operated 60 percent of long-haul flights from Heathrow and 50 percent of short-haul. It said Gatwick and London City airport were both unaffected.
The fresh round of strikes began amid a continuing war of words between union leaders and the airline’s boss Willie Walsh.
Last-minute talks between the airline and representatives from the Unite union were broken up by outside protesters on Saturday. Further negotiations between the two parties failed to materialize over a failure to agree about travel perks withdrawn from staff involved in a previous strike in March.
Despite the walk out, BA remains focussed on flying as many passengers as possible during the first of three five-day strikes.
Services to the most popular destinations in Europe, including Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam, have been cancelled as the airline pumps resources into keeping as many as possible of the profitable long-haul routes open. However there will be some disruption to services to New York JFK and Dubai.
The carrier said that its plan will allow it to fly 60,000 people a day this week, almost 30,000 fewer per day than it flew last May.
BA has trained 1,000 volunteers as emergency cabin crew and said that non-unionised workers from its overseas centres would be called on to plug the gaps. It has chartered eight aircraft with crew to serve European destinations.
A BA spokeswoman said Monday that the number of crew reporting for work “is at the level we expected,” so they can run flights as promised. In total, 70 percent of its passengers are getting their flights, she said, though thousands more were already put on other airlines’ flights.
Two more five-day stoppages are planned to start on May 30 and June 5, with a third having been curtailed by the court injunction. The March strike cost the airline £43 million. The planned 20-day strike that has been delayed and shortened by an injunction would have cost BA about £138 million.
These stoppages at Europe’s third-largest airline is the most damaging among a wave of industrial action facing an industry just emerging from the prolonged economic downturn. A number of carriers across Europe and the U.S. are involved in disputes, some of which have led to industrial action.