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British Airways pilots vote heavily in favour of industrial action

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After four weeks of voting BALPA, the British Airline Pilots Association has announced that British Airways pilots have voted in favour of strike action.

This follows a four week ballot that closed at midday on Monday.  The vote is over a pay dispute with British Airways, which offered an 11.5% pay rise over three years that was rejected by the union.

93% voted in favour of industrial action on a 90% turnout.

For comparison, the 2017 vote organised for Thomas Cook pilots by BALPA had an 88% turnout with 91% of pilots voting in favour.

BALPA represents 90% of the 4500 British Airways pilots, suggesting that around 4000 were eligible to vote.  Emails sent to members, seen by HFP, advised them not to vote in favour of industrial action unless they were 100% committed to walking out, so we have to assume that (93% of 90% of 90%) 75% of all BA pilots are willing to strike.

BALPA said:

“This strong result demonstrates the resolve of BA pilots, and shows BA that it must table a sensible improved offer if a strike is to be averted. Sadly three days of ACAS talks have not moved the company’s position one iota. Settlement of this dispute is in BA’s hands.
“We do not wish to inconvenience our customers which is why we have tried to resolve this matter through negotiation starting last November – it is BA who has regrettably chosen to drag this out into the summer months.”

“We currently do not have dates for any potential strike action and will issue an update on this in due course. We remain hopeful that this dispute can be resolved before strike action, but we remain committed to action if necessary.”

British Airways is heading to the High Court

British Airways is seeking a High Court injunction on Tuesday against any strike action, based on potential weaknesses in the balloting process.  This is par for the course in industrial disputes these days, however, and is not always successful. 

In 2017 a similar legal challenge by Thomas Cook against the BALPA strike ballot was thrown out with the judge awarding BALPA all costs and refusing any right to appeal.

Even if the ballot is deemed unlawful, BALPA will simply re-run it after making the required changes to the wording or process so the ball is simply kicked down the road.

The union must give British Airways two weeks notice before commencing any action, which puts Tuesday 6th August as the first possible day of disruption. 

It is not clear what will happen next.  Irrespective of what British Airways would like to do, it will be virtually impossible to offer alternative flights to more than a small percentage of impacted customers.  Others airlines will already have full flights and there are few alternative aircraft available to charter at peak season.  The idea that one million passengers per week can be accommodated elsewhere is ludicrous.

It is more likely that passengers booked onto affected services will receive an email notifying them that their flight is cancelled and offering a refund.

Your travel insurance may prove inadequate if you have pre-paid accommodation or car hire.  The only positive news is that the CAA’s ruling against Ryanair last year means that EU261 compensation should be payable on top of your refund.

The difficult question is whether you should book a refundable back-up ticket on another airline now before the strike dates are announced and availability disappears.  You would be paying the high premium of a flexible ticket, but at least you can be sure you will be travelling.

There is a risk that back-up tickets booked ahead of any strike announcement will not be reimbursed by your travel insurance.  However, this is not guaranteed to cover industrial action in any event.  Even if it does, there is likely to be a clause restricting payment if you booked after the media first started reporting potential strike action.

In terms of Executive Club credit, British Airways policy during previous industrial action is that you WILL receive Avios and tier points for your flight, even if it is cancelled and you choose not to travel or are re-routed on a non-oneworld carrier.

We will keep you updated as we receive more information.

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Comments (245)

  • Wetboy1uk says:

    Sorry but 11.5pc over three years sounds like a bloody good deal imho. Another rrason to get rid of sodding unions.

    • sean says:

      Depends; if 50% of your pay is salaray and 50% other benefits and its only the salary thats increasing then 11.5pc doesn’t look quite as good.

      • The Original David says:

        Does it? I got an 11% pay rise 8 months ago, and just got another rise this month of 4.5%. If I only had one 11% rise over 3 years, I think I’d have left…

        • Wetboy1uk says:

          Well lucky u the original david but most peoole dont get 2pc a year. U must be one of those with a union who have screwed the country into dishing out cash they cant afford. All these xompanies going bust because they cant afford to survive. I wonder how the pilots would feel if they priced themselves out of a job.

          • Thomas Howard says:

            I’ve had more than 10% a year since I graduated, no union in sight. Not that I’m against them. 11% over three years is only roughly 1% over CPI.

            Companies that can’t keep pace with inflation are probably in an industry with excess capacity that needs thinning out or consolidating.

    • Russ says:

      For me to as I have BA crew tenants….

    • Robert J says:

      I have to admit I do feel a lot more sympathy for the Mixed Fleet crew rather than the Pilots, I know many pilots from other airlines who would give their right arm for a position (and current salary) with BA.

      • BJ says:

        +1, it’s a good deal and they are already amongst the highest paid with best benefits in the industry. Personally I think they should have accepted. Like most other companies, I think more of the profit needs to be redistributed from shareholders and top end employees in favour of those at the lower end. A symptom of what has gone badly wrong in society over the past decade.

    • marcw says:

      It depends… without pilots there’s no BA.

      • AJA says:

        And without paying customers there’s little point being a highly paid pilot stuck on the ground. I suspect one’s sympathy for or against the strike depends rather on which side of the fence you sit (an industry insider vs a customer whose holiday or business trip is ruined.)

        BTW I am also no fan of Senor Cruz or W Walsh. Neither of those 2 gentlemen have covered themselves in much glory. Much of the downfall in BA standards is down to their actions.

        But the timing of this potential strike which may be supported by staff will potentially backfire with the paying customers if it happens and drags on. Summer holidays is the worst time which is of course why it’s been timed to happen now.

        I have more sympathy with the cabin crew than the pilots. It may well be easier to replace cabin crew but they are just as vital to the success of the airline and all the lovely new A350s can’t fly without passengers or cabin crew.

    • Matthew says:

      I don’t think BA mentioned the extra hours they are expecting them to work for the money. Always 2 sides to a story…

      • Matthew says:

        And normally T&Cs are eroded in lieu of a salary rise but that won’t be mentioned by BA either….

        • Nick says:

          As always, in my life, if you can’t stand the heat get out of the kitchen! Your choice! Nobody is forcing you to keep your job and there are probably a lot more people willing to take it! Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! 🙂

    • The Original Nick says:

      The members have probably rejected the offer because of shed loads of strings attached and not to do with the pay.

    • Rob says:

      They would also like back the £5,000 pay cut they took post 9/11 which BA agreed to reinstate when it was back to financial health …. they are still waiting.

      • Chris says:

        The main sticking points are that BA terminated the current pilot bonus as well as t&cs being eroded, they also refused a share save scheme, and refused any sort of profit related bonus scheme. The overall package was less than inflation and required major changes to working conditions. BA really only have themselves to blame for dragging it out for so long and thinking their workforce was happy. BA do not pay even close to the best in industry, you go to the continent eg KLM for that. An Easyjet or Ryanair captain earns far more than a BA captain at Gatwick.

  • Combatjohnny says:

    I am flying home from Kuwait on the 6th, loons like my holiday might to extended

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Likely you will be ok because the flight will leave on the 5th and I don’t believe those pilots will start a strike while out there? I wouldn’t be paying accommodation for staff on strike while abroad.

  • Sam G says:

    I guess Qatar will be preparing their flotilla of A320s!

  • Robert J says:

    Flying home from holiday on the 7th so I just need them to wait 2 days before declaring and I am within the two days. #FingersCrossed

  • SimonW says:

    That statement leaves the door hugely open for BA to find a solution it seems. Meet them half way and move on…… I have a vested interest in no strike action, but hopefully I am not being unrealistically optimistic.

  • Sussex Bantam says:

    How does this work if your flight home get cancelled (rather than your outbound) ? Do BA have a duty of care to you until they can get you home ? And does it make any difference if you are on two single tickets as we are ?

    • FlyingChris says:

      Also interested in this. My outbound will be before the strike action, the return mid-August. Was booked with a 241, but as 2x one-ways (half the avios refunded the next day). Do BA have to find a way for us to get home & pay accommodation costs if we’re stranded?

  • V says:

    4 of us flying to US ex-EU on 6/8! The positioning flight out is on 5/8 obviously on a separate booking…I can foresee a situation where we end up in Sweden on 5/8 but can’t start the “proper” trip on the morning of 6/8…I’ve got to keep the positioning flight booking live in case there is no strike on 6/8 otherwise will end up being a no-show. I don’t see much point in contacting BA today as no doubt they will say I’m too early

    • Shoestring says:

      they’d still have to offer you duty of care in Sweden ie free hotel & food & drink etc until they can get you away

      not bad as Sweden can be expensive on your own budget

  • @mkcol says:

    Looks like time to book a fully refundable CW somewhere on one of the strike days 😉

    • Kipto says:

      I have an Avios points booking on 6th August from Heathrow to Larnaca returning on 13th August. I take it that if BALPA don’t notify BA of strike action until at least Wednesday of this week my flight is ok and if my outgoing flight is cancelled my return flight won’t automatically be cancelled as I didn’t fly the outgoing leg ?

      • ChrisC says:

        yes BALPA have to give 14 days notice

        But it is BA that decides which flights they will operate using the pilots not involved in the strike (not all are in BALPA) and BALPA may not call out all its members out at the same time.

    • Shoestring says:

      if you want some free Avios & TPs, yes 🙂

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