In Depth

British Airways pilot strike: is your holiday affected?

Airline loses appeal meaning industrial action could take place as early as this month

British Airways has lost an appeal to block its pilots from striking, meaning a mass-walkout could take place this month, potentially disrupting thousands of families’ summer holiday plans.

Industrial action was backed by 93% the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) members in a ballot held last week, after three days of negotiations between the union and BA bosses failed to break the deadlock over pay.

Why are they striking?

Pilots have rejected a pay increase worth 11.5% over three years. The airline insists the offer is “fair and generous”, but Balpa claims its members deserve more and points out that BA has “been making healthy profits”, says the BBC.

Last year, BA made an operating profit of £1.96bn, up by 8.7% from 2017, while parent company the International Airlines Group (IAG) reported a total pre-tax profit of £2.9bn.

Following the vote to strike, IAG sought an injunction to prevent industrial action in the High Court, but it was overturned. The airline then took the case to the Court of Appeal but this too was rejected on Wednesday.

Will the strike go ahead?

The BBC says the latest ruling “opens the way for the pilots to name dates for a potential strike, which would likely fall in August - one of the busiest months for holidays”.

Given around 145,0000 passengers fly BA on a single given day in summer “a strike would cause significant damage to the reputation and finances of British Airways and its parent group IAG”, says BBC transport correspondent Tom Burridge.

“After this latest court victory for the pilots, logic dictates that the airline will have to offer some kind of compromise in order to avert a strike,” he says.

The union has claimed that the cost to BA to settle the dispute in full is “significantly less than the cost would be of even a single day’s strike action”.

If the strike were to go ahead, it would be the first by British Airways pilots since the 1970s, notes Bloomberg. BA pilots last voted for industrial action in 2008, but the dispute was settled before any walkouts took place.

Will holidaymakers be affected?

Balpa represents about 90% of BA’s pilots, so a walkout would be likely to cause severe disruption to services.

“If you have a flight booked with British Airways in the coming weeks then you will naturally be concerned. But as things stand you don't need to panic because the pilots’ union Balpa has not set a date for a strike,” says Burridge.

By law the union would have to give the airline a minimum of two weeks’ notice of any action, meaning the earliest strikes could take place would be 15 August if notice was given today.

However, the London Evening Standard says “it is unlikely that Balpa will make an announcement this week, as talks between the two sides continue”. That means 17 August is the earliest a strike could happen, says the newspaper, adding that the walkout can be called at any time until January.

The strike would affect all UK airports, including Gatwick and Heathrow, but not the short-haul BA CityFlyer routes operating out of London City Airport. Until a date for the strike is set it is impossible to know exactly which flights will be affected.

Will customers be refunded or be eligible for compensation?

In a bid to mitigate disruption and uncertainty, BA has said that in the event a flight is cancelled it will try and book customers on the next available flight.

“You may be able to claim back costs caused as a result of a delayed or cancelled flight – for example, accommodation costs or food and drink while waiting at an airport,” says the Evening Standard.

Following strike action last year, the Civil Aviation Authority ordered Ryanair to pay compensation of €250 to €400 per passenger. “However, unlike delays for other reasons, airlines are not obligated to offer compensation following industrial action because strikes are usually considered to be ‘extraordinary circumstances’,” says the paper.

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