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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

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 are the British Airways strike dates?

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 Cost cutting measures introduced with undue haste are never rescinded or returned to those who made them – even when they are no longer necessary or when record breaking profits are announced.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 (172)

  • Larry banlamana says:

    Sorry to say that the staff at VS are wonderful and go the extra mile for their top customers. Found too many poor experiences on BA, so switched my support to Branson. Its the same with issues. So many emails with BA and phone calls to no avail. VS there to help promptly and showing enthusiasm. I assume pay is better at VS and this along with better benefits motivates staff better. I’m sad that I had to move my custom from BA.

    • Adam says:

      I had alway heard (not sure if this is true or not) that while Virgin staff are much happier, it is actually BA staff that are better compensated.

      Someone may be able to confirm this though.

      • Shoestring says:

        You have to differentiate between the old contract BA cabin crew and the new contract (mixed fleet) staff.

        The old contract team are very generously compensated and have great final salary pensions – they are understandably often reluctant to leave their jobs – many are in their 50s (nothing wrong with that) – without being sexist, the guys are often very jolly, slim, happy to serve and love their jobs, whereas the women…

        The mixed fleet cabin crew are generally much younger (25-40?), often pretty good humoured and tired-looking – they are paid pretty badly in comparison and have defined contribution salary schemes.

        A tale of 2 contracts.

      • Rob says:

        Different job at Virgin though, because it is 100% long haul. The BA staff on the new contracts work a mix of long haul and short haul.

    • Bob brown says:

      Unfortunately vs staff are not better and they actually get paid worse. Flight allowances have been scrapped. However they have an image to try keep up. That’s why British airways staff have been voted number 1 at the sky track awards

  • DBD says:

    I’ve been lucky enough to never have been caught up in a travel strike before.

    I have a couple of European trips in August, hotel and flights booked as one. Presumably BA will just repay in full if they are unable to provide service, or do I have to dance through more hoops?

    • DBD says:

      Oh, forgot to add trips paid on BA Amex.

    • Rob says:

      If you have a BA Holidays package then you’re fine, the regulations are a lot tougher. You can be fairly certain you will get where you are going.

  • Anthony L says:

    Anyone having problems with Ba? They have cancelled to flights to Salzburg in Nov/Dec.They have then cancelled the rebooked flights within 10 minutes of speaking to call centre.

    • roberto says:

      Its change day.. New schedules effected just 3 sectors Aug to Jan for me. No harm , no fail thus far.

  • Frankie says:

    If I have booked a BA CW flight using avios and an amex 2 for 1 voucher and the flight (to Phoenix) is on a strike day and cancelled, can I ask BA to re-route me using American Airlines (with or without a connection) even though my booking was a redemption? Does using avios put be at a disadvantage compared to folk who have paid cash?

    • Anna says:

      You have the same rights as if it was an all cash booking. BA like to stick with their own metal – I think you might struggle if they were offering you a reasonable BA alternative, say on the same day or the next day. If it was going to be a few days, as might happen with our GCM flights which only go 4 times per week, you might be on better ground to ask for re-routing with another airline.

      • Anna says:

        All this pre-supposes that in the event of flights being cancelled, people will actually be able to speak to BA to discuss their options! I imagine their phone lines will be very, very busy.

        • Russ says:

          Agree Anna, and just to add to the thrill of being stranded, customer services will then inform you you will have to wait even longer because your replacement aircraft is in the wrong position.

          Incidentally do you know what the happens regarding Executive lounge access in these cases? Do we still have access or do they have a separate procedure?

          • Anna says:

            I would guess that if you have the right ticket or status they would let you in, though I don’t know what happens when they are full to capacity!

      • Nick says:

        BA don’t stick with their own metal where the journey is within the scope of their joint businesses – in these cases they treat member airlines as their own. This means that between the UK and the US (also Canada and Mexico) you can rebook onto AA (or IB) easily at any touchpoint and with no hassle or pushback. The Caribbean is outside this arrangement, so understandably they prefer their own flights rather than pay a competitor.

        • Anna says:

          Why would the Caribbean be outside of this agreement, AA and Iberia fly to plenty of Caribbean islands? I asked for re-routing on AA via MIA or NYC and BA flatly refused so we ended up losing 2 days of our holiday as it was too near to our travel date to mount a challenge.

          • Nick says:

            The revenue share agreement BA has with AA covers the US, Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. It does not cover the Caribbean. This means that they have to pay commercial (oneworld) interline rates to reroute you on AA to the Caribbean. Routes covered by their deal are considered as one airline and revenues are aggregated and divided out – for all intents and purposes they consider themselves one company. I can’t make it any clearer than that – google ‘Atlantic joint business’ to find the competition submissions if you need more.

          • Lady London says:

            IIRC there might also be a tail end of a historical thing where flights to the Caribbean from th UK were kept artificially high in price and no UK travel agent was allowed to ticket you to the Caribbean via thé USA. Some intrepid souls did buy a ticket to NY/East Coast with the intention of buying a (very very cheap) ticket to the Caribbean from there but we were not supposed to know about that. Hence no way would Caribbean be linked with Transatlantic in joint sales agreement even now with out a spécial effort.

            I believe @RussellH is an ex travel agent who might juste about recall these ‘no flying to thé Caribbean via the US from the UK’ restrictions.

  • Ian says:

    Why would you hope that BA doesn’t bring in managerial staff? BA has hundreds of pilots who have managerial roles and who would be unlikely to support strike action.

    • ChrisC says:

      Have they all maintained their certifications to be able to fly?

      Just because you were a pilot once does not mean you can fly a plane now.

      Ditto for cabin crew if you haven’t passed your SEP in the last year then you aren’t able to fly.

      • Ian says:

        There are hundreds of BA pilots in management roles who fly regularly.

        • Bob says:

          There actually aren’t hundreds…a dozen perhaps. Flight Ops has just finished a reorganisation and the numbers are rather small now.

    • Rob says:

      That’s not what I said. What I said was that I hope they don’t take an accountant out of Waterside and tell him he has to fly to Germany tomorrow instead.

  • Charlieface says:

    @rui n. End of the day it boils down to the airline’s poor staff management and they can negotiate their way out. If it was strikes by airport staff or ATC that would be different. The CAA already stated this a few times.
    @chrisc you’re quite right, the airline will offer either, but often the airline refuses and small claims is necessary, in which case an actual value needs to be put against the points. Trip Rep on this site did that and BA paid up.

    • Lady London says:

      They gagged him, though, sadly:-)
      And Shoestring when he got them for compensation on the removal if free catering on shorthaul….

      So we will never hear how much….

    • Rui N. says:

      True, but irrelevant for compensation. Preamble of EC 261/04 states that strikes are an extraordinary cirscumstance, thus no compensation is due. CJEU last year (?) said that wild strikes were not an extraordinary cirscumstance and compensation is due on those cases. Since then, UK CAA says that all strikes are due compensation, but without taking the issue to court and see if the courts agree, I don’t know what much else they can do besides saying that the airlines should pay (which has zero legal value, so they won’t pay).

  • pablo says:

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  • RN says:

    Somewhat off topic – I’m just at SFO, having been told my flight is now delayed by 8 hours – not leaving until midnight and now missing a whole series of meetings scheduled for tomorrow. What’s the best way to seek compensation (and in what form does this typically take – acknowledging that the company has paid for the ticket?) Not sure if relevant (more to inform possible comp) flying on a Class A ticket.
    Thanks all!!

    • No so lucky techie says:

      Flying First Class
      Missing work through no fault of your own
      What’s to worry about? 🙂
      Nice tasty compo forthcoming as well.
      Go kick back and enjoy some champagne.

      • Lady London says:

        Departing from EU its any airline at all.

        Returning to EU operating airline must be an EU airline for EU261 to kick un. So OK if AA Flight number if BA operates IT.

    • Shoestring says:

      Compo is payable to the individual. If it’s any airline flying to the EU, you are due EC261 compo – provided there were not extraordinary circumstances such as bad weather or air traffic controllers’ strike.

      You would claim via the airline’s normal compo or complaint line.

      see https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Resolving-travel-problems/Delays-cancellations/Your-rights/Am-I-entitled-to-compensation-/

      • Shoestring says:

        scratch that – if it’s a non-EU airline flying to the EU, you are NOT due compo under EC261 but you may be due compo under the airline’s delay & compo framework. If it’s an EU airline flying to the EU, my answer above pertains.