British Airways crew say they have raised funds for two weeks’ worth of strikes and are ‘ready for the long haul’ – but BA confirmed they will remove generous travel perks from striking pilots for three years.
BA is planning to operate just a handful of flights while walkouts on Monday and Tuesday – a period that would typically see 1,700 flights – threaten to ruin the travel plans of 280,000 passengers.
The Balpa union has warned there could be more strikes following those scheduled to take place next week, and BA pilots are planning to crowdfund for an extended campaign, the FT reported.
A British Airways pilot, who wished to remain anonymous, said funds were already in place for a couple of weeks, adding: ‘The only way to deal with [BA’s] approach is to display steely-eyed resolve.’
But BA sent an email late last night warning its 4,300 pilots that they would face sanctions for taking part in strike action, losing their generous travel perks for three years.
Airline staff and their families are entitled to benefits from 90 per cent discounts on flights to a free set of business class tickets each year, depending on seniority and time spent with the company.
BA sent an email late last night warning its 4,300 pilots that they would face sanctions for taking part in strike action, losing their generous travel perks for three years (file image)
Angela Williams, director of people at BA, warned in an email that strike actions was a ‘serious breach’ of the employment contract, and pilots taking part in walkouts would see travel perks taken away for three years.
The email also said pilots using discounted tickets to journey to work would have that benefit taken away as of October 31.
A BA spokesperson said they make ‘no apology’ for doing all they could to protect customers from further disruption.
On average, a BA pilot earns roughly £90,000, which rises to £167,000 and an extra £16,000 in allowances for captains, according to the airline.
Pilots have requested a three-year deal that includes greater profit-sharing, and BA has made an offer of an 11.5 per cent pay rise over that length of time – which unions Unite and GMB have accepted.
BA made an operating profit of €2.4million – now equating to £2.14million – last year.
A BA spokesperson said they make ‘no apology’ for doing all they could to protect customers from further disruption
Another pilot, also wanting to remain anonymous, said a lot of pilots were ‘resigned to losing their bonus’, and the matter had become about ‘principles’.
Balpa’s mandate for industrial action stretches until January.
The union refused to meet BA ahead of strike action on Monday and Tuesday unless the airline agrees to discuss a ramped-up pay deal that equates to an extra £11,600 a year for pilots.
A third strike is set for September 27.
Furious passengers have claimed that rival airlines raised their prices by hundreds of pounds to coincide with the strikes.
One passenger said yesterday: ‘Shocked to hear the bulbous price hike to nearly £1000 one way from @easyJet Gatwick to Jersey due to the BA strike. I suggest islanders boycott this airline in future. It’s outrageous.’
The Balpa union, led by general secretary Brian Strutton (pictured last week with his wife on holiday in Sardinia) said that there could be further BA pilot strikes
Upset passengers took to social media to vent their frustrations at both parties involved in the dispute, as well as other airlines including EasyJet and Qantas.
One passenger said: ‘Due to BA strike next week EasyJet are quoting £1100 for return flights to Gatwick next week. Apparently this is the same as a Qantas return also happening on two strike days. Shocking.’
In reply, EasyJet told Mail Online: ‘Our pricing is demand-led, our fares start low and rise as more seats are booked on a flight. Ticket prices around these dates are led by a strong demand for flights around this time, we do not artificially increase prices.
‘We offer value for money fares all year round with 50% of our passengers paying on average less than £50 and an average fare of only £43 over this winter.’
Discussing the impending strikes, one person said: ‘Absolutely disgusted at this.
Upset passengers took to social media to vent their frustrations at both parties involved in the dispute
After a long wait my wife and I managed to save enough to get us out to Vancouver and Calgary to see relatives, we are due to fly on the 27th September. This is now in jeopardy thanks to Balpa and @britishairways.’
Another said: ‘Precisely because of BALPA’s actions, and the harm it’s caused to me and thousands of other customers, there is a zero per cent chance I will ever book with BA or Ryanair again. You should all be deeply ashamed of yourselves.’
While a third slammed BA and chief Alex Cruz, saying: ‘Alex Cruz and the rest of BA management are absolutely fine with digging into some sort of war chest rather than settle the negotiations with BALPA – what does that say about them especially as the effects of cutbacks are already showing.’
Balpa sent an internal bulletin to members preparing them for more strikes if no breakthrough is made.
BA said Balpa submitted ‘inflated’ demands for extra bonuses and perks worth an extra £50 million a year, or about £11,600 on average among the airline’s 4,300 pilots.
In a statement, EasyJet denied that it artificially raised its prices, saying that they changed based on demand. Left shows the prices from Gatwick to Jersey on strike days while right shows the following week.
BA chief executive Alex Cruz (pictured) was sent a new proposal from Balpa which BA rejected
Passengers who paid for new flights after BA mistake to be refunded
British Airways has been ordered to reimburse passengers who booked alternative flights after they were wrongly told their BA journeys had been cancelled.
The Civil Aviation Authority said those affected ‘should not be left out of pocket’ for extra expenses, including travel, food and accommodation, incurred as a result of the mistake.
To make matters worse, the airline emailed many unaffected passengers in error, telling them their flight had been cancelled and that is ‘it is likely that you will not be able to travel’.
These holidaymakers later received another email saying that, in fact, their flight would go ahead as planned – prompting fury from those who swiftly acted on the first message, and booked another flight.
BA said it will reimburse passengers on a ‘case by case basis’, but this had many fearing they will be left out of pocket. The incident could have ramifications for similar gaffes in the future.
Compensation remains a grey area, and the CAA stepped up the pressure on BA yesterday, saying: ‘Those consumers that took action should not be left out of pocket, and any reasonable costs of re-booked flights should be claimed from the airline.’
Passengers who have seen their flights cancelled should be offered a refund or alternative travel arrangements. They also have the right to a later flight.
The airline said it has drafted in extra staff after passengers complained over the weekend of being forced to wait for hours to get through on helplines.
It added that the total annual bill would be much higher because it would have to offer a similar deal to other staff, including cabin crew, under an agreement with the GMB and Unite unions.
Balpa initially offered to return to the negotiating table last week after its boss faced a backlash for going on a luxury cruise while leaving the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of passengers in disarray.
Earlier this week it offered another olive branch by insisting it was willing to call off strikes scheduled for Monday and Tuesday – which will hit 290,000 travellers – if BA agreed to resume talks under certain conditions.
Pilots rejected an inflation-busting pay rise of 11.5 per cent over three years, plus a 1 per cent bonus.
According to BA chief executive Alex Cruz, this would push the total average package for captains, including allowances and bonuses, above £200,000.
The 11.5 per cent pay deal was accepted by the vast majority of BA staff, including cabin crew on a fraction of the salary enjoyed by pilots.
A Balpa spokesperson said: ‘Avoiding strike action and agreeing a deal with their pilots surely must be the desired outcome for British Airways.
‘We urge BA to join us to discuss the new proposal.’
But BA hit back: ‘We remain open to constructive talks with Balpa… but we do not believe the union is acting in good faith by making an 11th-hour inflated proposal which would cost an additional £50 million.
‘Balpa has cynically waited until we have helped the vast majority of customers with alternative travel arrangements, and our planning for a strike has reached a critical stage.
‘Our customers need the certainty that Balpa will call off the strikes for good, not just for two days next week.’
EasyJet prices were seen markedly different on the day of the strikes
A Virgin Atlantic flight from London Heathrow to New York JFK on September 20 is seen costing £313
A Virgin Atlantic flight to New York on the date of the walkouts – September 27 – will cost more than four times the normal rate. On the last day of strike action the Virgin Atlantic price has rocketed up to £1,354 – four times as much as the previous Friday
Adam French, Consumer Rights Expert at Which?, said: ‘After the chaos caused by British Airways’ email errors, it is vital the airline now does everything possible to minimise disruption and ensure all passengers are kept up to date on how this will affect their travel plans.
‘It must do right by its passengers and ensure that anyone whose flight is cancelled is rerouted – with a rival airline if necessary – or refunded.’
Downing Street urged both sides in the dispute to ‘get round the table and sort this out’.
A Number 10 spokeswoman said: ‘Nobody should have their travel plans disrupted or their holidays ruined.
‘The unions and BA need to get round the table and sort this out. The public would expect nothing less.’
Yet more misery for airline passengers as Ryanair pilots announce fresh round of strikes starting with a 48-hour walkout on September 18 followed by FIVE 24-hour stoppages during the next week
Yet more misery awaits airline passengers as Ryanair pilots prepare for a fresh round of strikes, with one 48-hour walk out and five 24-hour stoppages.
The Balpa trade union announced the further industrial action this afternoon, following recent tensions over pay and conditions.
Pilots who are members of the union also walked out last month as part of the same row with the airline.
Ryanair was unsuccessful in securing an injunction from Dublin’s High Court to stop a strike in recent weeks.
The airline is embroiled in a row over pay and conditions and pilots will once again walk out this month (file photo)
The next rounds of strikes will be held on Sept. 18, 19, 21, 23, 25, 27 and 29, some of which will coincide with multi-day strikes by both pilots and cabin crew in Spain.
Ryanair flights to and from Britain ran as scheduled over the last three days during Balpa’s latest strike, having also caused minimal disruption during the union’s first walkout last month over a dispute over pay and conditions.
General secretary Brian Strutton said: ‘We are clear that we want to settle the dispute and bring about a change in Ryanair for the better.
‘Pilots in Ryanair are seeking the same kind of policies and agreements that exist in other airlines, our demands are not unreasonable.
‘We want to address issues like pensions, loss of licence insurance, maternity benefits, allowances and harmonise pay across the UK in a fair, transparent, and consistent structure.
‘While this action has considerably disrupted Ryanair, forcing them to engage contractors and bring in foreign crews to run its operation, it has had limited impact on the public’s travel plans. Ryanair should stop dragging its feet and get back to the negotiating table.’
A Ryanair spokesman said: ‘These latest BALPA strikes are pointless given that during five days of BALPA strikes all Ryanair flights to/from UK airports operated as scheduled – with zero cancellations – thanks to the efforts of over 95 per cent of our UK pilots who flew as rostered and did not support these failed BALPA strikes.
‘We again call on BALPA to return to talks as these failed strikes have not achieved anything.’
The union said it ‘has been left with no choice but to add more dates given Ryanair’s intransigence’, after the airline refused to engage in talks via conciliation service Acas.
It’s general secretary Brian Strutton, who recently returned from a luxury Mediterranean cruise, said the strikes had cost Ryanair a considerable amount of time and money.
He said: ‘While this action has considerably disrupted Ryanair, forcing them to engage contractors and bring in foreign crews to run its operation, it has had limited impact on the public’s travel plans.
Ryanair should stop dragging its feet and get back to the negotiating table. We are clear that we want to settle the dispute and bring about a change in Ryanair for the better.’
Ryanair pilots are demanding better pay, pensions, maternity benefits and allowances.
But a leaked internal memo, published by the Mail last month, showed some pilots are already raking in up to £170,000 a year – including an array of allowances and bonuses.
Ryanair has also claimed Balpa is demanding pay rises worth between 62 per cent and 121 per cent over two years.
Mr Strutton has described figures published by Ryanair as ‘simply ridiculous’ and ‘fictitious spin.’
Although the union said the strike has the overwhelming support of its Ryanair members, less than half of the airline’s UK-based pilots are members of the union.
In reality less than one in three – or around 350 of the airline’s 1,250 UK-based pilots – backed the strike.
Q&A: Why are pilots striking and what do I do if I am affected?
Why are the pilots striking, and when?
Balpa announced the strikes on August 23 after 93% of its members rejected an 11.5% pay rise across three years.
More than 3,000 Balpa members who fly for BA – including captains paid £167,000 a year on average – are set to strike on September 9, 10 and 27.
Who will be affected?
The walkouts could trigger the cancellation of around 850 BA flights on each of the three strike dates.
The action by the pilots could ruin the travel plans of 450,000 people.
What are your rights if a flight is cancelled?
BA passengers will be offered a flight on the same day with a different carrier; the chance to rebook in the next 355 days; to use the value of the fare to fly to a different destination; or a full refund.
What if my flight home has been cancelled?
Again, you should be offered an alternative flight and, if necessary, food, drink and accommodation until the new departure time. If the airline is unable to do this, you have a right to buy your own and claim the money back.
Is there a right to compensation?
If you are booked on to an alternative flight which arrives later than the original, you can claim for the delay. Under EU rules, travellers who arrive more than three hours late in a journey of less than 1,500km (932 miles) are entitled to 250 euros (£240) each in compensation – on top of a refund – from the airline.
The figure is up to 600 euros (£577) each on long-haul flights. These rules relate to flights originating in the EU, Iceland, Norway or Switzerland. Compensation would be due if the problem results from a strike by the airline’s own staff, but not if they are the result of ‘extraordinary circumstances’, such as a strike by workers for a third party.
What if an airline fails to abide by the rules?
Airlines and airports should advise people how to make a complaint to an approved alternative dispute resolution (ADR) body. If they do not, complain to the Civil Aviation Authority. Alternatively, it may be possible to reclaim losses and expenses from your credit card company or bank using Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act or the Chargeback system.
Which? offers advice and template letters on how to pursue this.