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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)

  • 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?

    • Rob says:

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

      • Andreas says:

        Of course, will wait and see.

      • Mark says:

        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?

      • Adam says:

        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…

        • jane says:

          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 !!

      • Rob says:


  • Anna says:

    Question – as a last resort, can airline staff at an airport re-ticket you? In the case of not being able to speak to BA by phone (a very real possibility), could you just go to the airport a few days in advance and ask BA ground staff if they can help?

    • Rob says:

      Yes. T5 may close entirely I suppose for safety but T3 would be open.

      • Michael says:

        Would T5 close completely? – Iberia flights would likely operate.

    • Anna says:

      I’d be going to MAN. Best alternative route for us would be MAN-PHL-GCM on AA.

      • Lady London says:

        Looks like there’s a silver lining in every cloud, Anna – you’d not have to go via Heathrow with that routing would you.

        • RedEyeDonkey says:

          That’s actually a nice flight MAN-PHL. People moan that it’s one of AA’s older biz products but I’ve always found it very comfortable and the window seats pretty private and peaceful in such a small cabin compared to a huge CW cabin on a flight in a 777 or something. Service has always been exceptional too. Obvious downsides are MAN airport and the AA food not quite being as good (unless you’re veggie like me in which case it’s equally bad) as Club World. But in the current situation with Heathrow and BA issues those seem like minor drawbacks to switching to the MAN itin….

          • Anna says:

            It’s actually a route I fully intend to try once we have more travel flexibility – I’d happily swap BA Galleries and T5 for the convenience of MAN!

  • Sotos says:

    A couple of questions:

    1. Which kind of industrial action is valid for EU261 compensation? Pilot’s strike, LHR staff, both…?

    2. You say in your last paragraph that, if a flight is cancelled due to industrial action, and the passenger choses NOT to travel, then he/she will get a full refund PLUS Avios and TP’s for that flight? I know it works for re-routing, but for cancellation? Is this confirmed?


    • Rob says:

      1. Not clear. Ryanair is appealing against the order to pay up for their strike. If they win, you get nothing.

      2. This has happened during previous strikes. It may or may not happen again.

    • Shoestring says:

      LHR (non BA) staff on strike – BA have no control over this so definitely no EC261 compo.

      In the past, BA have paid EC261 compo when BA cabin crew have gone on strike, the legal argument being that they are big enough to plan around this sort of industrial action and should make reasonable provision for replacement cabin crew. However, this is far from proving the point that all internal strikes must therefore count as manageable, (qualifying for EC261 compo), in other words that BA could reasonably do something to keep the flights going as normal. Cabin crew are easy enough to replace; pilots are not.

      • Tim_T says:

        Not necessarily true. BA did not pay EC261 from the last cabin crew strikes (and CEDR supported this) – I know this as I have a case going to court shortly against BA

        • Rob says:

          But it wasn’t taken to court unfortunately. The Ryanair case was, and Ryanair lost subject to ongoing appeal.

          However, precedent from Spain etc is that strikes should not count so there is no guarantee the appeal is upheld.

        • Shoestring says:

          @Tim_T – au contraire, BA did pay out – perhaps not with CEDR but definitely under MCOL. They were wanting to avoid some kind of legal precedent, I guess.

          Did you fail to get compo with CEDR or MCOL? (And why didn’t you try MCOL, if that is the case?)

          • Shoestring says:

            to clarify: BA settled before the MCOL cases were heard

          • Tim_t says:

            As I mentioned above, I’m still waiting for the court case to be heard. BA have not yet made any out of court offer.

          • Lady London says:

            I suppose BA wanted to avoid setting a precedent. But up to £10,000 would go via small claims track so an MCOL win for that amount would not of itself set precedent. Don’t blame them for wanting to stay out of court on it anyway though.

            FWIW I agree with you Shoestring. Courts are reasonable where they can be and I think they might seek to distinguish a strike which leaves BA no chance of continuing operations overall from a strike where some effort on their part could ensure flights were operated much closer to normal – even though i do think BA deserves this strike if they welshed on agreements with pilots.

          • Shoestring says:

            and the adjudicators definitely call it differently depending on circumstances, eg crew sickness is not a get-out re: EC261 with LHR departures but it can be at outstations where BA can’t just call in spare crew

    • Sotos says:

      I see. Well, I was thinking of booking this fantastic CW fare CDG-LHR-GIG over the bank holiday weekend at the end of August, so if flights are cancelled then the worst case sxcenario is that I get a full refund, if I can’t find another suitable period, and I won’t fly to Rio. I can live with that.

  • Stoneman says:

    I am right in thinking that the dates for the strike have to be published beforehand as a matter of law nowadays? If so, do we know the dates? Also, would flights being affected from LHR to Europe likely to only be affected on those said dates of the strike?

    • Sean says:

      Nothing announced (yet) as BA (currently) at high court challenging the validity. Once that case is settled lated today – expect something one way or the other to be announced shortly.

    • Rob says:

      14 days.

      Most European flights on non-strike days would be OK but obviously some planes and pilots would be out of position.

      • Stoneman says:

        Thanks for that. Postioning to Stockholm for a Qatar flight to Singapore so a little nervous about this. May just drive to another airport and book new tickets but will wait to see how the first. Wave of strikes affects things.

  • WillDoAnythingForAVIOS says:

    Some of you, would sell your mother for some avios.

  • Anna says:

    And another question (as my flights are on August 10th which is starting to look bad) – do BA have a duty to get you FROM your originating airport? So if MAN-LHR was cancelled but not the long haul leg would it be up to me to get to LHR and tough luck? We could drive to LHR if we really had to but I imagine it would be a bit of a nightmare to get a hotel and parking this late in the day. No way we could manage on public transport with all our luggage.

    • jane says:

      is the 10th starting to look particularly more likely then others ? in which case I should worry some more about the 11th (obviously worrying already) – I’m wondering if they’d be more likely to strike week days or weekends. either way, I just wish they’d put some dates out so I can stop thinking about plan b, c, d etc.

      • Anna says:

        They can’t strike before August 8th now, and need to give 14 days’ notice. So if they get the go-ahead legally to strike in the few couple days, the earliest dates would be likely to be August 9th, 10th or 11th.

        • Jane says:

          Or Monday 12th. Always best to start something new on a Monday….

        • Dave says:

          14 days from today would put the first day of a potential strike on the 6th no?

          • Anna says:

            I think the 7th and 8th have been ruled out judging from earlier posts, can’t remember why.
            I’ve got my plan A, B and C mapped out, but if all else fails, does anyone know whereabouts in Warrington that BA call centre is?!!

          • Anna says:

            My fear is not even the pilots, it’s BA being their usual obstructive self and trying to persuade me that my only option is to cancel my 3 week holiday while denying the existence of EU 261. Unfortunately I am speaking from previous experience here!

          • Shoestring says:

            calm down, go and have a re-read of the font of plain English where flight disruption is involved

            once you buy a flight ticket, you have very good legal guarantees to ensure you must be conveyed from A to B in a timely way – plus you can take matters into your own hands (be pro-active about finding another flight provider & claim back the costs) if your original airline is proving difficult in terms of re-routing you

          • Anna says:

            Shoestring, I am beginning to wonder if you’ve ever had to negotiate with BA in a situation like this. For starters, it can be nigh on impossible to actually get through to them on the phone – hence my very real plan to go to MAN and find a human to speak to if I can’t get hold of anyone on the phone.

            What the law says is irrelevant and useless if you can’t get what you are entitled to before your actual holiday. It’s all very well saying take matters into your own hands, but what do you think the chances are that BA will reimburse passengers who haven’t even spoken to them about alternative plans (because they can’t get through on the phone!)?

          • Shoestring says:

            I think you would just have to document the wasted time you spent trying to get through to CS/ trying to get re-ticketed, then after x hours give up & buy your alternative ticket, for future refund by BA. They’d not even defend it if it came to MCOL (it wouldn’t), you just have to be sure to buy the same class of ticket, as they wouldn’t pay for you to travel in a better seat.

            Yes – I have struggled against non-responsive CS phonelines & know how awful that can feel (the 6cm of snow that wiped out LHR back in 2010).

            But absolutely, no – what the law says is definitely not irrelevant and useless – it is your weapon to get ahead of the 95% of other people who sleep on airport floors when a flight gets cancelled.

            So use the legal knowledge and keep it in your armoury, be quick to take action if things go seats up in a strike situation.

          • Anna says:

            I grant all your points, however my 2 previous experiences of flight cancellations have involved me quoting EU261 repeatedly at BA by phone and email and receiving the response over and over that re-routing is “not their policy”. In the end I had to accept what they offered as I couldn’t afford expensive replacement flights and the holidays would have been and gone by the time a court case had been convened. So even if you know the law, getting BA to abide by it (or even acknowledge it) is a whole other kettle of fish. I’m in a similar situation yet again at the moment with them trying to deny that there was an issue with the air conditioning on our delayed flight from JFK, but at least in this case I’m not losing anything by having to sit out the process!

          • Lady London says:

            I had that “not our policy” [to honour your legal
            rights] $hit from Iberia too, Anna, and it’s one reason I intend to sue them.

          • Nick says:

            Anna, Harry is right. And you have a package holiday, which means you’re covered separately and additionally by the package travel regulations. Did you not see my comment last night explaining what this means? The vast majority of people aren’t so fortunate. We don’t even have any dates yet, we don’t need to panic.

          • Anna says:

            Nick – you’re missing the point. Harry is obviously right in principle, but there’s no guarantee that BA will act in accordance with EU261 in time to salvage people’s holidays. The law just exists on a piece of paper, it doesn’t automatically get enacted, it depends very much on the willingness of the relevant party (BA in this case) to co-operate with the requirements. Also, if you’d read my post you’d know it’s only my OH who is on a package booking, so my son and I have much less protection.

      • Nick says:

        But you’re not asking BA (the airline) to cover you for EU261, you’re asking BA Holidays (a travel agent) to look after you in accordance with the package holiday regulations. I’ve NEVER seen or heard of them refusing to abide by these regulations, which are strict (and for a reason). I don’t know how much clearer I can make it so this is my last reply on the subject.

    • Lady London says:

      I think they have to get you from where you booked otherwise cover your costs of doing so. I’d talk to them and agree something and wouldn’t just let them assume that the lhr onwards should be cancelled if they couldn’t run the man-lhr.

  • munchimo says:

    But what if after trying to get through for hours, you book flights that cost twice or three times what you paid with BA? Even in the same class that is likely to be the case so close to departure and with the strikes. Would they have to refund the whole amount or is there some limit?

    • Shoestring says:

      they’d have to refund the lot, obvs you pay more in that situation vs buying the ticket 6 months in advance

      to protect yourself, take a few screenshots of alternative fares/ airlines to prove you made a reasonable choice

      [incidentally, duty of care: whilst BA’s compo limit per person under EC261 is nominally £200 for a hotel room, that’s not realistic a lot of the time so you do the same thing, ie screenshot a few different hotel room prices – then claim back your £350 or whatever]

    • Graeme says:

      That’s my wonder at the moment. There are Ryanair/Easyjet alternatives for my Rome flights, but at about £300pp rather than the RFS we’ve paid which will only get worse. We’re flying on the Friday of the Bank Holiday weekend, so I’m expecting them to target that.

      I also wonder if they’d entertain me flying to Naples as that’d actually suit me more.

  • Sussex Bantam says:

    So – my summary having read all of the above is (someone please correct me if I’m wrong!)

    1) It isn’t clear whether compensation is payable. Strikes within the airline itself are usually held to be the airline’s responsibility but pilots may be a special case given the scarcity of their skills.

    2) BA would have a legal responsibility to get you to your destination. They can either do that via one of their own flights or via another airline. They are unlikely to offer an alternate airline but if what they offer is not reasonable then you should just book it yourself and claim back. Reasonable, as always in law, is not defined but ultimately up to the court’s judgement (should it get that far). Tomorrow is probably reasonable – next week Thursday is probably not.

    3) If you are delayed because BA cannot get you to your destination then they have a duty of care to you. Make your own arrangements if you can’t get through to BA and claim back.

    4) BA will likely cancel flights and offer refunds but you do not have to accept that. If you try to get through to them to discuss and it is impossible (document how you have tried) then just go ahead and book something else and claim back.

    As long as you have enough funds (love those large credit card limits!) then all of this seems manageable. I guess if you’re not in a position to book alternatives yourself and sort out later it might be much more of a problem.

    • Anna says:

      Also the reimbursements are very unlikely to have been paid by the time the credit card bill arrives! Otherwise I would be ordering myself a new BAPP to try and trigger another 2 4 1 as one-way replacement flights for 3 of us vary between £7k and £15K…

      • sean says:

        Not sure its reasonable to book one-way tickets – a return is generally much cheaper.

        • Anna says:

          No – 2 singles would be more than a return on our route but a return is more than a single.

      • Sussex Bantam says:

        Its an interesting point about the credit card interest costs. I reckon you could add that to the cost of BA not re-booking you to something reasonable themselves. You wouldn’t have incurred that cost if they had done what they were supposed to do under the law…

    • SimonW says:

      3) I presume this only applies to inbound legs… Surely I cant claim £200 a night per person for hotels if my outbound is delayed ?!

      • Sussex Bantam says:

        @SimonW – would this seem “reasonable” to you ? If not then it probably wouldn’t to the court…

      • Shoestring says:

        depends if you have a comfortable bed waiting for you at home a half hour from the airport!

        depends if you are a student who is still in love with the idea of hotels and food on somebody else’s tab 🙂

        absolutely, you can claim duty of care on/ before disrupted outward bound flights – living in Cornwall but flying from LHR, what else would (say) BA expect me to do if they said your flight’s delayed by 24 hrs?

        with the volcanic ash disruption, I just stayed in our place in the sun and enjoyed the extra days holiday – but I *could* have hammed it up in a nice hotel with food & drink on tap – OK that was homeward but outward is no different

        people here have said that they have ignored flight cancelled emails, rocked up at the original airport on time for the original flight and got treated very well in terms of duty of care

    • Nick says:

      Buying your own flight and claiming back is not a guarantee – you have to let BA try to reroute you first. They have interline agreements with other airlines – and are not forced to use airlines that refuse to use IATA standard ticketing (such as easyjet and Ryanair) for this. I wouldn’t do it at all if I hadn’t been expressly told they’d pay.
      (The only precedent for this is Ryanair, and even then they had at least 3 days’ grace before they had to pay up.)

      • Shoestring says:

        you are correct but the point here is when BA fail to deliver a reasonable / fair outcome, you can refuse their offer and do it for yourself, claiming back the cost later

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