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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.  Or perhaps Wednesday, depending on when they start counting the 14 days!

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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  1. Vasco says:

    Question: I’ve got flights on BA metal booked with AA on their codeshare. Who do I deal with in the first instance if the strike ends up affecting my flights, BA or AA?

    • Shoestring says:

      the operating carrier is liable/ your primary (and only) contact, in all cases

    • marcw says:

      It depends really. If for flight is under airport control (usually 24 h before departure) then it’s the operating carrier. Otherwise it’s the ticketing carrier (or travel agent if that’s the case).

      • Shoestring says:

        we’ve got 3 entities here:
        -operating carrier
        -ticketing carrier
        -marketing carrier

        happy to get a definitive answer

        • marcw says:

          Marketing carrier is irrelevant during irrops. If the flight is cancelled while under airport control (usually less than 24 h bf departure), then you have to deal with the operating carrier. If cancellation has more notice than 24h, then you have to deal with whoever issued your ticket, if a carrier then that carrier (ticketing carrier), if a travel agent, then you have to deal with the travel agent.

    • ChrisC says:

      rule of thumb

      for issues within 24 hours of departure the OPERATING Airline

      Before then it’s whoever you bought the ticket off so if that was AA you call AA if it was Expedia it’s Expedia and if it was Jays Corner of the Street Travel Agency then you contact Jay!

  2. “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”

    Does anyone have an idea when this date was that the media first reported?

    • Shoestring says:

      nearly all insurance policies wouldn’t pay out for strikes in any case

      but as a working date, you could think about June 1st

  3. I have a reward flight booked with BA (Santorini with a 2 for 1) which may well be affected, any idea what my compensation rights are in the event my flight is cancelled?
    Also, my 2-for-1 expires in Nov, is there a precedent regarding the voucher validity being extended in this story of situation?
    Any advice is appreciated!

    • Shoestring says:

      compo rights? yet to be tested with these circumstances

      some people are saying it’s simple: ie BA should maintain good working relations with its pilots and never let matters deteriorate to the point where a strike happens

      I don’t actually agree in principle, ie for that to be true, the pilots would *always* have to make reasonable pay increase demands & if they were so obviously reasonable, BA would accept them and pay up

      so we’ll have to see if BA caves

      or BA refuses to cave and it is judged that the circumstances here were ‘exceptional’ under EC261 law

  4. Back in the sale in May I booked via BA Holidays a 5 day trip to Venice departing 11 Aug from LGW.

    It’s interesting to read that I might get Avios and Tier Points if my flight is cancelled but I’d much rather go on holiday.

    Trouble is I also have a 2-4-1 booking to Malaga in early Sep so might find that cancelled as well.

    I note other comments about the BA pay offer and personally think it’s not unreasonable but then again I don’t know what the last pay rise was.

    The complaining about not getting back the £5k pay cut dating back to 9/11 days seems a bit petty. The pilots must have had pay rises since then, also how many of the current pilots still flying were the ones who took the £5k pay cut?. There have been plenty of us who lost out following the 2008 banking crash. I can’t see my employer giving me a backdated pay rise on that basis.

    • ChrisC says:

      BA promised to pay it back ‘when things got better’

      Well things have got better.

      I wouldn’t call losing £5k ‘petty’. It was a huge gesture by BA staff to help the airline and I am appalled that BA have still to make good on their promises.

      • I have no idea what the average pilot salary was back in 2001 but today we are talking a range starting out around £28k up to a senior long serving long haul pilot on around £150k.

        So £5k in 2001 may have been a hefty pay cut. It would be interesting to know how much BALPA is expecting today in return for that pay cut. I think back after 9/11 BA really was teetering on the brink so they really had no option. US airlines had Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, European carriers did not.

        On the other hand BA is one of the better paying airlines today. If the current offer is inadequate what amount would satisfy them? 13%, 20%, 25%? It is a tad one-sided to report the rejection of the BA offer without knowing what is really being sought.

        • Shoestring says:

          AJA – not that difficult to see the offer vs the demand – it’s online

          • Thanks for your reply Shoestring. Is the amount BA pilots are seeking published online?

            I’ve been searching and can’t see what BALPA is saying BA should be paying. I’ve searched the BALPA website and it only mentions rejecting the BA offer. Nothing about what they would accept.

            I am not an industry insider and would be really surprised if that info was publicly available.

            Would you care to share the link if it’s so easily found?

  5. If our (CW) flights are cancelled and BA insist we can only have a refund, would I be justified in booking alternative (CW or equivalent) flights and going after them for reimbursement? I know we are entitled to re-routing but there is no guarantee that we’ll even be able to speak to BA before we travel, let alone get them to agree an alternative routing! OH is on a BA holiday package, me & my son are on award seats using Lloyds vouchers.

    • Shoestring says:

      your premise is wrong: BA must re-ticket you if that is your choice, they can’t insist on a refund

      as to your other question: it comes down to reasonableness on both sides. Not reasonable for BA to say you must take an alternative flight in 5 days’ time. Probably not reasonable of you to say I’m not prepared to wait 24hrs so I’m booking this other ticket with Virgin today and will see you in court for my £5000

      • Not wrong, Shoestring, I have been in this scenario before when BA has cancelled flights and refused re-routing outright. They may be in the wrong legally but you can’t physically force them to re-issue tickets. Winning a case at court would be no use months down the line when I’ve missed my holiday.

        Only 4 direct flights per week to GCM and they are likely to be full. Fortunately we have ESTAs and could get to GCM via a number of US cities, but I can’t see BA having the sense to realise this!

        • Shoestring says:

          yep but often that comes down to the agent you happen to get engaged with

          HUACA usually works

          knowing your rights usually works

          you get a stubborn, wrong, BA agent who refuses to re-ticket you? you recite EC261 law, ask for a superior manager, then the superior’s superior etc and basically dig your heels in until you get a satisfactory outcome

          • Been there, done that! But if your holiday is only a few days away it could be too late, and that’s assuming that you can even get through to someone on the phone as I anticipate there will be “extremely high call volumes” to contend with once they start cancelling flights!

          • Shoestring says:

            but then you are forced into the big wallet scenario: you know your rights, you refuse the unreasonable alternative or the refund, you buy tickets to your destination and claim back the costs later

            poor people can’t do this but people with a big enough purse can do it as the law is clearly on your side

          • Shoestring says:

            I wish I’d trained as a barrister – they must be the most unlikely people to die of senile dementia

          • Lady London says:

            BA already seems to have what seems a permanent “extremely high call volumes” answer phone message playing, now, at normal times.

        • There’s still plenty of BA availability to the Eastern US the week we travel so we have options (though MAN-LHR is another question). Just been explaining to the OH that we’re probably in a better position than anyone going to Spain or Greece…

          • Anna you need to remember that a package holiday has different (additional) rights compared with a flight-only booking, so you’re in a MUCH better position than most people. In this case your travel agent has to source you an alternative holiday. The fact that your agent is BA and they only deal with one airline (BA) is irrelevant, they’re still bound by the package holiday regulations. This is a benefit if BA Holidays packages that is majorly undersold in my opinion.

          • Nick, it’s only my husband whose on the package deal – it would not surprise me in the least if BA offered him an alternative while completely disregarding my son and me!!

  6. Good luck to the pilots

    • Shoestring says:

      Bill – from this can we infer you wish much misery on anybody wishing to fly out for holidays on BA this summer, ie the other side of the cake?

      • But if there were no industrial rights (the importance of which is recognised in the ECHR), most people would be completely at the mercy of their employers and we’d be back in Victorian times. So while I certainly don’t want the misery of a disrupted holiday, there is a bigger picture here.

        • Shoestring says:

          OK – I can’t get everything right

        • Anna which would you prefer: your holiday to GCM cancelled and your money refunded, no holiday but you’ve supported the pilots


          BA raises pay by 25% to meet BA pilot demands. In return airfares increase 10% and Avios suffer a 15% devaluation to pay for the salaries.

          I am more with Shoestring than Bill on the striking pilots. If you are a pilot and that annoyed with the offer go look for another job at a competing airline. Ryanair pay £100k to senior pilots. That is not to be sniffed at.

          • marcw says:

            Airlines are price takers, not price makers. And Avios devaluation and increases in taxes and SURCHARGES happen regardless.

          • Marc I’m not so sure that’s true. You’re implying that the pilots can demand whatever they like and BA will just pay it and can’t recoup the increased expense in any way from customers.

            We customers already have the option not to fly BA but some still choose to because it’s the most suitable. But if prices did rise all customers would abandon BA.

            If that’s the case then BA should stick to it’s offer as the option is for the airline to fold and everyone loses their jobs.

          • Airlines don’t work like that. They are price takers, not price setters. As indeed are most businesses these days. BA is welcome to stick another £10 on its short-haul fares whenever it wants but the price sensitive customers will be off in a shot.

            I promise you, the revenue management people (who set the fares) have nothing to do with the cost teams.

          • Thanks Rob, thats enlightening.

            My apologies to you Marcw, I was plainly wrong. Disregard my reply to you. Thanks for your original reply to me.

            I really enjoy this website. It really is informative and find the articles interesting and the discussions helpful and polite.

        • marcw says:

          BTW Anna, how is your current BA issue with your delayed flight due to AC issues and missed connection? Any new info? (I hope you I am not mixing up people)

  7. 11% over 3 years…..right to strike and ruin people’s plans …..try working in a area of the public sector with pay freezes for years…. no striking…oh and now a whopping 2.5% is coming my way……trouble is we just get on with it unlike the snowflakes in the private sector. It affect my flights don’t know yet I’ll find out more in the near future. All I do know is BA is a total pile of steaming turd that I’m glad to see the back of. I hope more for note competition so that donut Cruz is finally kicked out

    • OH and I both work in the public sector. Our pay rise last year was 0.85%, as the government simultaneously stripped away other benefits from us. No striking – that puts you in one of two possible professions – we knew when we joined, as they say!

    • Chris says:

      I know how you feel but it shouldn’t be a race to the bottom.

      The BA pilots do a complex, risky job for which they have required a lot of training. The whole business depends on their skills. They deserve a decent pay rise when the company they work for has profited so well from their hard work.

      Now, none of that is to say in the slightest that you don’t deserve a better pay rise than what you were given or that you don’t deal with complexity and risk or require lots of high-level education too. But my point is that the real ‘fat-cats’ WANT you to feel envious as dividing the workers and playing envy politics reduces scrutiny of those in power.

    • If you think BA are a pile of turd why did you book with them? There’s plenty of other airlines around

  8. Freddy says:

    Is the staycation making a comeback now?

  9. Chris says:

    Hi Rob/Rhys, long time reader and FTer. Love the site and thank you so much for all you do.
    OT: Is there a best call centre to use nowadays for adding on the return leg of an amex companion voucher booking? Not much seems to be open at 0100h BST- I think US line closes at 2000h EST.
    Many thanks for your help.

    • Japan

      • Chris says:

        Thanks. I note they are only open Monday to Friday though.

        • USA is other favoured option. However, if you have enough avios to book both tickets book 2 tickets online at 1am and call the UK number later the same day to request them to apply your voucher to the return sectors and refund half your avios. If the flight is from USA back to UK though best you call to avoid higher costs.

          • Chris says:

            Thanks. Sadly USA closes at 2000h EST, 0100 BST so i’m not sure if it’ll work….
            Yes, it’s a return from USA.

  10. Walsh and Cruz are just reaping what they sow. Hard to feel for the pilots though as they cut their own deal and failed to support cabin crew with an ‘I’m alright Jack’ attitude during the last strike and did everything they could to support management.

  11. If one were to book a ticket and BA cancelled the flight but offered and alternative airline on another flight number, is one obliged to take it or could you choose to cancel and take the avios / TP’s?

    I’m thinking to places where BA has lots of alliance support so Doha, North America etc.

    • Eli Goldberg says:

      This has been discussed extensively in the comments already

      • Has it? I can find reference of being within your rights to demand a re route not a refund but nothing with respect to demanding a refund as opposed to a re route.

        Quite happy to be pointed towards the correct info and take that back if necessary.

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