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British Airways strikes now looking likely for early August as pilots prepare to vote

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As we broke on Twitter yesterday morning, BALPA – the main British Airways pilots union – has submitted formal notice to British Airways that it intends to hold a strike ballot.

What are the British Airways strike dates going to be?

We don’t know.  However, under UK law, an employer must be given seven days notice of the intention to hold such a ballot.

The Independent is quoting a timetable of:

ballot papers posted to members on 26th June

deadline for receipt of ballot papers of 22nd July

earliest date for strike action – given the legal obligation to give notice – of 5th August

What are the British Airways strike dates?

It’s not just the pilots, of course, although with no pilots the rest of the staff might as well stay at home anyway.

Unite and GMB, which represent most other employees at the airline, are running a few days behind BALPA but are also about to submit a similar formal notice to BA.  The three unions have been conducting a joint pay negotiation.

What is the current BA pay offer?

The current offer is 11.5% over three years, consisting of:

  • 4% in 2019
  • 3.5% in 2020
  • 4% in 2021

However, whilst this sounds ok, it does not reflect the reality of how crew are paid.  A relatively low base salary is topped up by a substantial number of additional payments to reflect, for example, nights away from home.  These allowances would not change and therefore the effect on total take home pay is far lower than the numbers quoted.

British Airways is also proposing a new bonus scheme.  The current one is complex with many factors – such as passenger NPS (basically ‘how happy are you to recommend BA to friends?’) – driven more by management initiatives than staff.

A statement from the Unite union to staff yesterday said:

Despite record profits, British Airways remain unwilling to share such success with those who helped create it.

The mindset of the so called “fight for survival” has become a permanent fixture. Cost cutting measures introduced with undue haste are never rescinded or returned to those who made them – even when they are no longer necessary or when record breaking profits are announced.

It would seem that staff only exist in management thinking when blame must be apportioned, when times are bad, or a when collective belt tightening is required. It is easy to recount the seemingly endless list of cost cutting initiatives in every area. Different names but the same outcome, “cost” i.e. your pay or terms and conditions were reduced for the greater good of the airline.

During the bad times, ordinary staff have shouldered more than their fair share of the airline’s cost cutting initiatives and ever reducing terms and conditions, without either acknowledgement or reward. It is therefore entirely reasonable that they are now able to share in BA’s success.

However, this has simply not been the case. Management do share in this success through a series of profit-based initiatives which can add up to millions of pounds, but staff do not – and it is for this principle, that BALPA, the pilots’ union, has issued formal notice to BA of their intention to hold a strike ballot for their members.

Unite and GMB will be balloting their respective members in the near future.

What are the British Airways strike dates?

What impact would a strike have?

It depends.  On days when BALPA strikes, it is effectively game over.

On days when Unite and GMB strike, it may be possible to keep a fair number of services on track.

On long-haul, British Airways currently has excess Mixed Fleet staff.  Strong recent hiring, the grounding of some Boeing 787 aircraft due to engine issues and the wet leasing of the Air Belgium aircraft (which have their own crew) means that there are cabin crew to spare.

On short-haul it is a different matter.  BA is apparently short on both crew and pilots, with many being rostered to their legal limits.

Qatar Airways has provided cover to British Airways in the past, providing fully crewed aircraft (Qatar has spare capacity at the moment due to the UAE blockade).  I am not sure if the CAA would allow this to happen again.  British Airways has also roped in managerial staff before to cover, although hopefully not for pilot roles …..

Anyway …. fun and games.  Let’s see how it pans out.


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Comments (171)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Chelseafi says:

    Have a flight Heathrow to Madrid mid Aug on Iberia, is this separate from BA issue?

    • Marcw says:

      Yes. IB is a different airline (they are related to BA but operate independently)

  • AP says:

    As the article addresses, it’s the cabin crew who suffer with horrendously little opportunity for any pay increases. Their additional payments which equate to very little do nothing more than add some loose change to an already offensive pay packet.

    BA need to address their very poor treatment of cabin crew – this isn’t people just asking for money willy-nilly, this is asking for some pay increases to overcome years of very poor treatment of pay by BA.

    Even 5% pay increases for crew would do little, after 5% of very little is still very little.

    I wish them the best, BA have no excuse for this especially with record breaking profits, so I hope the unions eat them alive!

    • Marcw says:

      The main issue for cabin crew has been the Pound performance.

  • AJA says:

    I am not a fan of strike action as a means of protest. It ultimately doesn’t solve the problem and just causes animosity between staff and management and annoyance and dissatisfaction with customers who are negatively affected.

    Customers have the choice of going to the competition which if they do so in significantly high numbers and permanently means that revenue and profit is permanently affected which means they airline cuts services and pay and conditions for staff. It’s a vicious downward cycle.

    The article mentions several allowances which will not be changing and means the headline wage increase is not as good as it appears.

    It would be good to know how much of a pilot’s salary is made up of base salary and how much is allowance and therefore how much the actual salary increase will be, is it closer to 1% or 4%?

    According to Glassdoor BA pilots salary averages out at £95k per annum with an average base salary of £79k and then various other payments on top.

    I notice that the base salary ranges from a low of just £26k up to £120k at the top end of the scale. (Based on a sample size of 6!) So not the largest sample to draw conclusions from.

    But it would seem that most (4 out of 6?) BA pilot salaries are at the higher end of the scale to give the result higher than the mean. So a 4% increase is pretty generous when RPI for April 2019 was 3.07%.

    • AJA says:

      I booked in the May sale a 4 night trip to Venice with BA Holidays flying on 11 August. I do hope it doesn’t get disrupted. I have to pay the balance by 6 July which is before the results of the ballot are known. Very annoying if I don’t go.

    • RussellH says:

      I would not call an increase of <1% over cost-of-living "pretty generous". Certainly not for cabin crew.

      • AJA says:

        I was talking about the pilots strike and not the cabin crew strike. But I do think it’s a bit disingenuous to say that an increase roughly 1% above CPI is not worth it. What increase do you think BA should stump up? 5%, 6%, 10%? I’m ok with any of those on the understanding that airfares would probably rise by a similar percentage. Meaning BA would make even more profit.

        What was your last salary increase? Mine was 2.5% and while not brilliant I’d rather get that than zero.

        Cabin crew and pilots can choose to try getting another job with a rival airline if they are that dissatisfied.

    • ken says:

      “revenue and profit is permanently affected which means they airline cuts services and pay and conditions for staff. It’s a vicious downward cycle”

      It’s never a virtuous circle though is it ?
      You know, when management treat and pay staff well, leading to a better customer experience.

      Better to die on your feet than live on your knees.

      More power to the cabin crew I’d say, who across the industry have had their T&C’s battered over the last dozen years.

      • AJA says:

        I agree but when as a paying customer my travel plans are disrupted I lose sympathy pretty rapidly. I am not alone in this. I also think we can vote with our feet and choose another airline. That harms all at BA.

        As I say I am not a fan of strike action. I hope they actually don’t need to strike.

        But striking in school holidays when it affects a lot of families on their big annual holiday is not the best way to get people on their side.

        I also think it’s better to talk avoid a standoff if at all possible.

  • Michael C says:

    (Wildly) OT for Cathay experts: I’m looking for Tokyo-HKG redemption way head (April 2020) but all that appears each day is JAL in Premium (oddly).

    I know in general Cathay have been releasing little in general, but is something “likely” to appear later on? Would like to do a Club + Haneda lounge trip.

    Cheers & hope to nab a party ticket!

    • Andy says:

      Cathay seems to release availability a couple of weeks at a time to BA. When I looked for HKG to SIN earlier this year all I could see were connections on MH available…then a bit later Premium economy only on CX became available…then a bit later still a full choice of classes on CX flights. You may need to wait until the Autumn/winter to book for next year but keep checking.

    • RIccatti says:

      You need some Asia Miles to get Cathay regional business. This seems the way forward.

  • Steve says:

    Was going to book a weekend away early September – I guess I won’t be doing that now (at least not with BA). I might also proactively switch my January BA flights to Virgin just in case. Being on holiday and stressing over whether you’ll actually be able to get home is never fun.

  • Aliks says:

    For reference, what sort of money do the cabin crew and pilots earn?
    Broad question, but lets say an experienced person, mid thirties in the job for 5 years??

    • Shoestring says:

      Mixed fleet cabin crew (you said 5 years so that excludes the old contract cabin crew) – £22K
      Pilot – £85K

      • JP-MCO says:

        Captain – £127.5k (according to Glassdoor)

        • Jonathan says:

          Wouldn’t be a BA Captain after 5 years though, senior first officer if lucky!

          • JP-MCO says:

            Sorry was just putting as a data point rather than in answer to the question.

        • Michael C says:

          But there are also massively advantageous tax schemes. Not being
          in any particular country for 183 days, etc.

          • Rob says:

            That doesn’t work now. Needs to be under 90 days in UK AND no ties – no house, no club memberships etc.

        • Dimitri says:

          This is a massive salary for pilots looking for example at their US counterparts..

          And considering that hospital surgeons and consultants don’t even make anywhere close to that figure..

          BA should really stand their ground and refuse any pay rises for pilots. I prefer to have my flights cancel than feed the fat cats.

          • Rob says:

            You are out of touch. There are law firms in London paying £60k to new graduates. The only surgeon I know has a nice house in Chelsea, one in the country and sends his kids to private school.

          • Mark says:


            US legacy carriers pay pilots way more than European airlines, certainly on long haul. $200,000 plus is not uncommon. Senior pilots are on very high salaries. It’s the regionals in the US that have low pay with some pilots working two jobs to make ends meet.

            Pay at BA is high for the senior pilots but actually relatively low for short haul. New captains would earn more at Easy or Ryanair. Pay for cabin crew on mixed fleet is not good.

            I don’t know why we have such salary envy in the UK. If you earn more than the Prime Minister then it’s not allowed obviously! Just because pilots might earn more than other professions doesn’t mean it’s not justified. It can be a very demanding job with serious responsibilities.

            IAG are making huge profits and I don’t see why the workforce shouldn’t have a fair share of the spoils – they are the face of the company afterall.

          • Relaxo says:

            For reference 18/19 Mean salary for hospital based consultant/surgeons in England is £115K (+ 1.15X london multiplier)

          • Shoestring says:

            @Relaxo – data could come in handy – I’ll be seeing my Scottish bro in law next Saturday & he’s one of those…

          • douggb says:

            Relaxo – Would be interested to see the source of your data:

            UK 2003 NHS Consultant Contract pay scale is from £77913 (starting) to £105042 (19 years service completed). There is an on call availability supplement of between 1 and 8 percent depending on frequency of on call.

            Historically there have been employer based excellence awards but these have been discontinued.

            London weighting is £2162 and has been fixed at that level since 2005.

            It is hard to see therefore how the mean salary could be £115k unless the numbers you are referring to include overtime (more that 40 hours per week) or private practice which varies massively from specialty to specialty and by geographical area.

      • Dimitri says:

        Well, looking at all the salaries across all professions:

        As well as looking at salaries from glassdoor etc. and having a ton of friends in the medical profession, I think that pilots are doing pretty well. And no it’s not salary envy. The only differentiating factor is that professionals such as pilots, air traffic controllers etc are in very powerful unions. It’s even more ironic that the engineers who designed the aircraft that does most of the work and are probably double digit IQ points smarter than the pilots and even more hard working are getting paid at least half of what pilots make.

        • Rob says:

          It does cost over £100,000 to train as a pilot. You also need to remember that a Captain and First Officer do the same role, effectively (ie fly the plane) but one earns more than the other due to seniority.

  • Sarah O'Neill says:

    What happens if you’re on a companion avios trip when the strike happens? Pretty sure insurance does not cover points. Do BA refund the points if the flight is not taken?

    • Charlieface says:

      EC261 says you get a full refund either in Avios or cash equivalent (based on 1.6p per Avios) plus 600 EUR compensation each.

      • Rui N. says:

        No compensation for “regular” strikes, just wildcat ones.
        (the CAA has been trying to force airlines to pay up in regular strikes as well, but this hasn’t been tested in court yet)

      • ChrisC says:

        where does EU261 say that?

        If you paid cash you get cash refunded. If you paid in miles you get the miles back.

        It does not say you can get cash back for a miles booking.

        • Lady London says:

          @ChrisC there are cases such as involuntary downgrades where there is no refund as such but compensation must be paid based on the value of the ticket. E.g. IIRC 75% of the value of a First Class ticket if downgraded to Business.

          • ChrisC says:

            There is no compensation for a involuntary downgrade. The language of EU261 is very clear on that.

            There is a reimbursement of a % of the fare paid for the sector and it makes no difference if it was a cash or miles booking. And you get the reimbursement back to the method of payment. You can’t ask for a cash reimbursement if the fare was paid in miles (and vice versa)

            The question I was asking was the valuation of the avios that charlieface given because there is no such figure given in the regulation.

          • Shoestring says:

            AFAIR The 1.6p valuation was accepted (based on BA’s selling price of Avios) when TripRep had to take the case further against BA and get compensated.

          • Rob says:

            Correct. Arbitration cannot make non-monetary awards, and as BA sells Avios at 1.6p this is the value it will place on them when calculating what BA has to pay you for your 75% compensation.

  • Tom says:

    Whilst I agree with the strikes in principle, I am very tempted to cancel my 1st redemption LHR to HK first week of August just in case. Would be gutted if something happened and they refused to give me my 120k avios back.

    • Anna says:

      Tom and Sarah (above) – you can cancel avios bookings up to 24 hours before departure (and just lose £35 pp AFAIK), so this would be an option.

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