British Airways dispute ‘not about perks’

British Airways dispute ‘not about perks’

British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh has insisted the ongoing industrial dispute with the Unite trade union is not about the return of travel perks to striking workers.

Unite has staged 22 days of strike action to date in 2010, with British Airways withdrawing discounted travel from cabin crew as a result.

In recent discussions Unite has cited the reinstatement of the previous arrangements as crucial to the success of any deal between the two sides.

However, speaking at the Business Travel Market, Mr Walsh stated, if Unite accepted the latest deal on the table, travel perks would be reinstated.

“There is a big gulf between the views of the cabin crew and those of the Unite union,” explained Mr Walsh, citing the number of crew crossing picket lines during strikes as evidence.

“If Unite offered an open ballot to members it would be accepted,” he added.

With Unite outlining plans for further industrial action, Mr Walsh also stated British Airways hoped to offer all long-haul departures and a significant number of short-haul routes during any further strikes.

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Iberia

In a wide ranging address to an industry audience Mr Walsh also offered signs of optimism as the global aviation industry continues to emerge from the recession.

Citing International Air Travel Association (IATA) figures, the BA chief argued the global airline industry may move into black for first time since 2008 during the financial year – making $2.5 billion.

However, this represents an operating margin of just 0.5 per cent, warned Mr Walsh.

For British Airways, the merger with Iberia would also offer “dramatic improvements” for passengers, especially on transatlantic routes.

The deal is expected to be completed at the end of 2010.