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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.

(Want to earn more Avios?  Click here to visit our home page for the latest articles on earning and spending your Avios points and click here to see how to earn more Avios from current offers and promotions.)

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Comments

  1. Anybody here actually going for the mooted strategy of aiming for free Avios and TPs by booking a fully flexible fare in the hope it gets cancelled?

    I’m mulling a short-term investment of £11k on F to Sydney…approximately 63.5k and 720…

    • Eeeek!

      • +1 Stu. Yikes to the £11k spend. Wish I was wealthy enough to do that. I’m definitely not going down that route…

        • Colin MacKinnon says:

          That’s why we’ve built up such large credit limits on our cards!

          • Potol says:

            There is a £15 cancellation service fee for a fully flexible ticket if the flight is not cancelled by BA

    • Eli Goldberg says:

      I’m so tempted but it seems like a shot in the dark for now

      • Alex M says:

        I dont think its decent, but am not surprised that many people would do anything for money. What happened to this country?

    • F is very risky – virtually no-one ever buys F for full fare. You stick out like a sore thumb.

      • Risky in what way Rob? That BA might find some loophole in their T&Cs on which they could rely to deny the Avios and TPs?

        • Yes – and potentially even close your account. I seriously doubt you could convince arbitration you meant to fly it.

    • Sam G says:

      In the past IIRC Sydney has been a route that they try to operate – as the impact in the days after a strike from not having the crew downroute etc last longer. So might not be the best pick

      That said it’s winter in Aus this time, so they may be happier to cancel it

      New York is another route I remember them touting that a full service was in operation

      I guess Qatar is busy preparing their flotilla of A320 ! Otherwise as you say, it’s going to be a total wipeout as there really is no spare wet-lease capacity in the market – e.g. look at the hotpotch of 30yr old 737s LOT have operating in lieu of the MAX and TUI have had some 40+hr delays which I am sure they would have tried to sub out if they could

      Once things get into September things might loosen up with the likes of JET2 (and we even saw Ryanair on the LGW domestics last time) as summer peak schedules start to wind down

      • Sam Wardill says:

        I (and my family) am booked on a flight from Sydney to Singapore in mid August. At what point are they likely to allow free changes / cancellations (if at all)

      • Hope so with QR. A peak season RFS in business for 50p would be a bargain for sure.

    • david says:

      Wow.

    • Yes – I am considering a fully flex J for each day of the strike (one at a time) I see the max downside is £15 cancellation fee

    • James says:

      Leaving the morality questions aside, isn’t the only problem with this the fact that if you have to cancel your ticket you might be waiting weeks for BA to process your refund?

      • LewisB says:

        I doubt @3742 would be doing this if he needed that 11k anytime soon.

        • That’s right, although in theory the funds would only be out of my hands for two or three weeks anyway. However, even if it were much longer, say a year, (63.5k Avios and 720 TPs) – £15 has to be a good annual return on £11k, as compared to any conventional interest bearing option in this bankrupt nation.

          • roberto says:

            I did something on a similar vein when the old virgin MNBA card stopped last year. A couple of days before my final statement ran I booked two VS fully flex business returns to the US netting 4 miles per pound on just under £9000 per person. I paid my final bill and cancelled the seats about 8 weeks later netting close on 71000 miles.

            The refund turned up about 3 weeks later. The miles paid for a huge chunk of 2 awards seats to vegas in PE (using the voucher I got for spending over £10k with the cancelled booking.)

            This is twice in two days my comments sound a little mercenary as I type.

            Maybe I need help.

    • LewisB says:

      Absolutely insane. This is why I love the hfp comments section!

      • Michael says:

        So do I – the blog is worth reading as there’s so much knowledge in the comments section.

  2. Munchimo says:

    Have a family trip to South Africa booked 19-27 August. If my flights are cancelled and BA don’t agree to re-route can I really just buy tickets on another airline and expect them to pay? If the tickets on the other airline are much more expensive is that also acceptable?
    Also, how long before the holiday are they likely to cancel?

    • No, you can’t. BA will probably go to court to argue that the strike is outside the scope of the EU rules. Even the Ryanair case in the article is still being appealed – note that many EU countries have rules that strikes do not trigger compensation claims.

      Given 14 days notice for the strike, it is unlikely you’ll get more than 7-10 days notice of cancellation.

      • The question is not about compensation, it’s essentially about re-routing.

        • Sam Wardill says:

          I’m very interested to hear the ultimate ruling on EU261 compensation. Personally I can’t see how an airline can argue that a strike is an extraordinary circumstance that could not be avoided. The airline is making a commercial decision not to meet the demands of the pilots.

          • Charlieface says:

            Indeed. And EC261 is an EU directive so only the ECJ really has a say in what the rules are, the local enforcement bodies have a legal opinion equivalent to you or me.

          • Shoestring says:

            @Sam – but your premise is wrong

            extraordinary circumstances is/ are not defined as ‘an extraordinary circumstance that could not be avoided’

            wording https://eur-lex.europa.eu/resource.html?uri=cellar:439cd3a7-fd3c-4da7-8bf4-b0f60600c1d6.0004.02/DOC_1&format=PDF

            & reads: Extraordinary circumstances should be deemed to exist
            where the impact of an air traffic management decision
            in relation to a particular aircraft on a particular day
            gives rise to a long delay, an overnight delay, or the
            cancellation of one or more flights by that aircraft, even
            though all reasonable measures had been taken by the
            air carrier concerned to avoid the delays or cancellations.

            ie we’re talking ‘all reasonable measures’ and by its nature, the word ‘reasonable’ is subject to interpretation/ judgement

            my point with the pilots’ strike – if it goes ahead – is that it would be unreasonable to expect BA to:

            1. accept the pilots’ pay demands without question or negotiation
            2. magick more pilots out of thin air to replace striking pilots

    • You are entitled to re-routing (though not necessary compensation).Shoestring made a good point yesterday that if BA start being unreasonable (e.g. refusing to re-route or saying you have to wait 5 days) you would be justified in making your own arrangements and requesting reimbursement. The difficulty would be in proving what BA’s position was (though I understand they record all calls), and it would probably take many months and involve legal proceedings to get the money back.

  3. So to earn tier points and Avios, book a cancellable flight on BA and hope that it gets cancelled by the strike.

    If not cancel and book another.

    Would this work?

    😉

  4. Just booked alternative refundable tickets with Virgin Atlantic for our outgoing flight.

    Haven’t worried about the return as I really can’t see BA leaving us stranded.

    Going to be a shame if we have to drop our CW BA flight and sit in economy with VA instead, but at least we will get to our destination.

    • roberto says:

      If BA cancel your OB flight and you go on VS then how will you get home? I cant see BA keeping your IB leg open and would just cancel both ways.. Unless its two different bookings?

      • Shoestring says:

        yep @Adam if you have cause to use the Virgin flight because your outward flight with BA gets cancelled (strike), you will need to contact BA to make sure they keep the return flight open for you

        • They are part of the same booking. We are flying to Las Vegas (11th) and back from Los Angeles (28th).

          I was hoping that as they are different airports and 17 days apart, if the outbound leg was affected then it would be possible to request that they keep the inbound flight open. Providing that I can actually get through to speak to someone.

          Being completely honest, I don’t, like most of us here, know what to do.

  5. In the scenario that a family of three have a BA holiday package consisting of flights and car hire, am I right in assuming that BA have to provide a full refund rather than just for the flights? Are there any additional rights?

    • You are in a strong position, yes.

      • Many thanks for the clarification. Obviously though for additional items such as hotels etc I will have to rely on my travel insurance. The cost of this is around what we should get under EU261 but as others have noted BA will probably try to get out of this…

    • A couple of people said yesterday that in this case BA effectively owe you your entire holiday and will have to arrange an acceptable alternative.

  6. Davis says:

    Remember that call centres will be totally chaotic with long or impossible waits.

    So if you are re-routed and you need to amend you may need to call the call centre and just sit and wait.

    I once made an Avios booking for something that was unlikely to happen and planned to cancel just before. Which was fine until a weather meltdown and mass cancellations meant that when I had to call to cancel it took the best part of a very stressful day

    Given that this period will be very stressed families with children trying desperately to sort out their family holiday, I am not sure I would feel entirely comfortable myself about exploiting the situation and taking up people’s time just to make a speculative pile of avios.

    But that’s just me.

    • Completely agree Davis. Unfortunately, you’ll be surprised what people will do for Avios and TP. Blocking the lines whilst some people are struggling to get their holiday sorted will be justified I guess as “BA’s problem”. C’est la vie.

      • I imagine these bookings will mostly be done online. My biggest worry is that my flights will be cancelled and I won’t be able to get through to anyone to anyone to attempt a re-route. Even then, a lot of BA staff (especially overseas) have no idea what EU261 is and are seemingly trained to give the same unhelpful answers until the customer gives up/goes away/pokes out their eyeballs in frustration.

      • What a silly point to make! Why do you think somebody would choose £30 and a long time on the phone to achieve what can be done in a few click online for £15?!

        Do you also think my idea of ‘blocking’ one F seat LHR to SYD during peak summer time is going to affect the ability of hard-up families to secure their summer holiday?

        The flight is available because nobody wanted it, and I bet you that at this stage – two weeks away – nobody will ever want it.

        As for the morality aspect of getting free points, I will not hear the preaching of anybody on here unless they swear they have never referred themselves, never manufactured any spend, never net a spend target on a card then ditched it, and never exploited a loophole or unforeseen consequence of an offer to enrich themselves with points eg: Iberia!

        • Shoestring says:

          heh heh! don’t forget there are an awful lot of people who genuinely think it’s somehow immoral or wrong to pull forward & buy the freshest cartons of milk in a supermarket instead of taking the oldest ones at the front with a shorter expiry date!

          • Those cretins really annoy me! I have the good manners not to let on to them in any way that I deem them thick as cream for selecting the units with upcoming expiry dates. Maybe they are so sour because they are after recently drinking sour milk…

            This website’s raison d’etre would seem to be discussion of how to religiously acquire as many points as might be available, which effectively means taking advantage of any (legal) opening that presents itself.

            The moral police act as though I’d proposed tricking a pensioner in to transferring their Avios to me!

    • Lady London says:

      You can cancel Avios bookings online.

  7. Does this also affect BA CityFlyer from LCY?

  8. Currently booked on BA to ATL on the 11th August (redemption), I’m not panicking yet but I do like to have a plan, Virgin have reward availability on the 13th, albeit in economy vs original booked club – if I were to book this as back up I assume I can cancelled like the BA redemption (with fee ??) – and if I need to use it, will BA let me come back on my original return redemption flight given I didn’t fly the outbound ? Thanks

    • Are there no other BA flights to ATL a couple of days either side? I checked for BA availability to other US cities last night and it was pretty good.

      • 14th has some space – I was thinking about avoiding BA in case they are still suffering the aftermath. hard to know what is best to do !

    • Virgin has standard 24 hour reward cancellability, yes. That is worth holding. Still a risk BA unilaterally cancels your entire flight, but getting back is less of a pain than not getting out.

      • Thanks Rob, if BA does unilaterally cancel the whole thing, does that mean we are on our own with regards to paying for a flight home ?

  9. Mark Davies says:

    As we are booked on a non flexible fare. BA won’t refund it
    We have a once in a life time holiday planned We need to be in Seattle by 16 th August.
    We have saved up for 2 years for this
    Am questioning if I will fly B A. After this.

    If the strike action does affect my flight I am thinking best cause of action would be to try and get a flight from Europe.
    Is there a Search tool I could use to find alternative flights?

    • Skycsanner or Expedia. However, you could also re-route via another city BA flies to or check availability for Seattle a day or 2 before.

    • Andrew says:

      Plenty of other options available to get stateside for now…

      Icelandair will get you out on the 13th August to Seattle, back on Sunday 25th August for £579 return from Manchester.

    • Lady London says:

      Yes BA will refund nonflexible fares in these circumstances. Actually that’s not your best option. You want a reroute and you’re entitled to it, or to be compensated for the costs of getting another ticket (,ie reroute) on another airline even if considerably higher cost (you have to prove that was the going rate at the time). I appreciate that may be cashflow wise impossible if BA can’t be contacted (keep record of attempts) or won’t reroute you but in all circumstances that is your legal right.

      Whether you get an additional cash payment under compensation rules is the part that’s debatable.

  10. I’ve got a BA business class reward ticket flying on 9th August LHR – IAD and returning the following week. I need to arrive there on the 9th for some meetings.

    If I book an economy Virgin ticket and fly out on it, will my return BA leg be invalidated because I didn’t use the first part of the ticket even it is was delayed/cancelled due to the strike?

    • It would be usually but due to the strike it should be ok …. except that BA will need to manually deal with your ticket and that assumes you can ever get through to them. May just be a unilateral cancellation to avoid 1 million (literally, given weekly passenger numbers) calls.

  11. Andreas says:

    I’m flying to BCN direct with BA on 7th August, there are plenty of options for BA to reroute us via MAD on IB. Is this a safe assumption to make? If the strike dates are announced and affect me should I be pushing for them to make this reroute happen just in advance just in case?

    • Wait 24 hours …. if no strike is called today, 7th is fine.

      • Andreas says:

        Of course, will wait and see.

      • I am in the same boat with BA avios business class booking for the family to New York on the 7th August. Fingers crossed they do not announce today! From reading the other forums on this topic I thought we would be safe of gettting re routed if cancelled as it is NYC, but slightly concerned by not being able to get through for them to them on the phone to book. What do you think Rob?

      • I’m hoping the 8th will be fine… no strike to be called today or tomorrow please!!! and that’s the earliest they can possibly do it…

        • I’m now wondering if we get to Friday with no dates, does that mean they won’t announce strike dates on the weekend so my Sunday 11th flight will be fine !? far to many what if’s going around in my head !!

      • I’m praying nothing is announced today. Got Avios flights to Larnaca booked at 730am 7th August… returning 22nd. Villa booked separately. Not bothered about getting stuck there. Ha ha! I just need to get there on the 7th… so if nothing is announced today we are defo ok for the 7th yes?? Looking for reassurance..

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