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The inside story on the BALPA / British Airways pay negotiations

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The BALPA pilot strike threat has been pushed down the news agenda this week because of the threatened (and then postponed) strike by UNITE members at Heathrow and yesterday’s IT meltdown.

A pilot strike is still a very real risk, however.

I spoke to a BA pilot yesterday who is up to date with the current negotiating position.  This is where things stand:

British Airways is claiming that it has no money, effectively, despite reporting impressive Q2 results and expecting another year of substantial profits, and despite finding a few pounds to take BALPA to court last week – and whilst this was not reported at the time, British Airways has been told by the court that it must pay BALPA’s legal costs as well as its own.

Progress at ACAS late last week and earlier this week was described as “minimal”

BALPA has agreed to another, potentially final, round of ACAS discussions which will start today (Thursday)  

Here are the current sticking points:

The current pay offer is not linked to RPI.  Whilst British Airways has sold this – and it was accepted by cabin crew – as an ‘above RPI’ offer, this is not guaranteed to be the case.  BALPA wants an RPI+ pay agreement.

BALPA is insisting on a profit share arrangement, similar to the one KLM recently introduced for its pilots.  Jet2 has also just awarded its pilots a bonus equivalent to 4-weeks pay.  The current bonus scheme, which has ten different triggers, is seen as one which is designed to stop payments being made.  BALPA would like a scheme based on a fixed percentage of profits.

The ‘gain share’ proposal on cost cutting, which has been accepted by cabin crew, is not acceptable.  (For what it’s worth, I agree.)  Employees do NOT share in the gains from cost cutting programmes – they only share in the additional gains over a random ‘base case’ figure put in place by management.  With no control over the ‘base case’ figure it is easy to see why this is not attractive.

BALPA has concerns over the governance of British Airways.  IAG, the parent company, refuses to get involved in negotiations because it claims that BA, Iberia etc have the freedom to operate at arms length.  BALPA believes that this is not the case and that the BA negotiating team is uncertain as to what it can agree without facing the wrath of IAG.

Let’s see what happens at ACAS today.


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Comments (160)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Steve says:

    James, they normally move you to the next flight and create availability, that’s what’s happened to me with schedule changes.

    • David says:

      Me too in September, so wish we knew what was happening.

      • Steven Shaw says:

        Well today is judgment day, 14 days from now is bank holiday weekend. So I’d say September was ok for now.

    • IanMac says:

      Slightly O/T
      You’ll probably work out ok with BA.
      Lufthansa’s position (to myself in the past) is that you fly on the next flight which has those category / class of seats available (and ignore EC261/2004).
      With KLM (again personal experience) you are likely to get bumped down (and back) until they can find you a seat.

    • Lady London says:

      In theory in this case the airline normally would replace tour seat with any type of seat even a revenue seat for your Avios ticket. They cannot insist on waiting for a reward to be available to replace your lost Avios seat.

      However at this time of year factually most seats are not available to rebook you into as they’re full. Thé airline can’t magic up free seats if they dont exist.

  • AJA says:

    I am only a passenger and BAEC member so have no insight or any other connection to BA or IAG. I don’t particularly have any allegiance to them but admit that earning avios does have an influence on whether I choose to fly BA but ultimately £ rules and if the fare BA offers is not acceptable then I choose another airline. I suspect that is the case for most of us.

    Interesting article and comments from fellow HfP users. It is clear that IAG has delegated responsibility for resolving the pay issues to BA. While BALPA argues whether ultimately IAG can veto any deal then progress won’t be made. I am sure BA has received guidance from IAG as to what is acceptable. Is BALPA expecting a team from IAG to take over? I doubt that will happen. It either has to accept the BA negotiating team or walk away.

    As for the content of the deal it is clear 11.5% over 3 years is not acceptable but an insistence on a RPI+ increase vs just RPI is splitting hairs. As for profit sharing / bonuses in my experience they are always skewed in favour of the employer and never as great as they are presented. That’s life. It sounds like some bonus is on offer, it’s just not acceptable to BALPA. .

    What is not clear is whether BA has conceded a single point and made any changes to the initial offer.

    It’s time for BALPA to decide whether they accept the (revised?) deal or not.

  • TrollBasher says:

    I reckon if BA threw in an Amuse Bouche and reinstated the cheeseboard for flightdeck meals, this would all be over by Tea… 😁

    • Mike says:

      and use of the office swivel chair at weekends and the boss’s wife’s recipe for ratatouille………..

  • Royston St. Claire says:

    How does this article ‘Help business and leisure travellers maximise their Avios, frequent flyer miles and hotel loyalty points’? I find this website is a much better place to visit when your brief is stuck to.

    I have noticed an increase in this sort of off-piste content over the past months and like others have commented, a creeping and distinct anti-BA bias. Virgin on the other hand never seems to have a bad word said about it and gets a proportionally much greater coverage given its size of fleet and routes.

    You still manage to come up with some excellent content so I will continue to check this page out now and then, but I would urge you to stick to what you’re respected and known for rather than indulging in this sort of idle tittle-tattle.

    • Rob says:

      You’ll find many people think we are TOO pro-BA given the state of the seats etc and that we shouldn’t be encouraging anyone to pay cash or Avios for tickets with them, which probably means we are about right. Do you see an article today ranting about the BA IT failings yesterday?

      • Travel Strong says:

        Indeed. I find this site to be very much pro-BA – providing ample advice to help people gain Avios, and help more people travel on BA flights as efficiently as possible. BA is then its own worst enemy in the service it provides and I feel the anti-BA proponent to be BA themselves. Yes this is all my opinion. But it is based upon comparing the BA strategy and customer service to competitors such as Virgin.

    • Spaghetti Town says:

      BA and Virgin are the only games in town really when it comes to Miles in the UK. What do you expect Rob to talk about? Qantas?

      The Virgin ISA’s got a bit much at one-point but that was clearly because Rob had some sort of advertising deal with them, which he obviously needs to run the site.

  • George K says:

    I for one am appreciative for whatever information can shed light on a situation which is inherently opaque. Strike action can have a big effect on the travelling public and forewarned is forearmed – anyone wanting to avoid disruption will book outside of BA, and will be grateful for it. Rob and co are merely passing on the facts, with much needed analysis of sometimes unclear circumstances. All these things help inform the debate around this site’s brief: to get more out of your traveling.

    Thank you for your work. Keep it up.

  • Mr P says:

    For what it is worth, it would appear from discussing this with my BA captain friend, there are many differing priorities for BA pilots which makes the negotiations and accepting a deal very difficult. Pay vs Benefits vs hours vs etc..

    He along with many of the other longstanding (and well paid) Senior Captains are relatively happy with the proposed pay proposal, not jumping with joy, just realistic over what can be achieved in the current climate. But they are aware that many of the more junior pilots are far more focused on pay awards, because it makes a bigger different in their pockets.

    The main sticking point for them, is a condition that comes with the BA proposal that states something along the lines of; ‘You agree to changes in your working practices in line with efficiency saving projects’. The condition given is completely unbounded and could mean anything. I believe BALPA are trying to get this line removed or explained and defined through mediation, the BA pilots are very wary of accepting open ended conditions. Until this catch all term is removed, I suspect very few pilots either junior or senior will accept a deal.

    • Russ says:

      From my brief chats with staff it’s the unbounded conditions which are the sticking point. The understanding is that overnight accommodation is in a 5* star hotels where it’s typically quieter so they can get some uninterrupted sleep. Without that boundary and given BA’s rack record of enhancements, pilot’s could be put in the cheapest accommodation possible.

  • David says:

    O/T but BA – Shoestring, did you say recently that if you check in on mobile app with BA but don’t access boarding pass, you can change seat for free at the self check in desks at LHR?

    • Sloth says:

      Not sure about at check in desks but you can change your seat again in the app as long as you haven’t downloaded the boarding pass yet

      • David says:

        For a fee though! Basic economy ticket only. I thought I read Shoestring say that a way around this was changing at the self check in desk but i’m possibly mis-remembering.

        • Sloth says:

          So if you are cheapest hbo, no you can’t change seats for free…

          • Shoestring says:

            unfortunately we haven’t tried changing HBO tickets at the self check-in desks

            2 things:

            – yes you can change Avios tickets to Exit row seats free of charge at the self check-in desks – but it won’t work if you crystallise your boarding pass by printing it or saving as PDF – you need to say ‘collect at airport’ when you check in T-24

            – yes you can smile at the check-in agent and she will switch your HBO ticket to a better seat free of charge, we’ve done this several times as on occasion we get 4x Avios seats + 1x HBO

          • David says:

            According to an FT thread seat selection is free at the self service check in desks regardless of ticket type. Either way I’ll be attempting tomorrow 🙂

          • Shoestring says:

            would be good to know

          • Shoestring says:

            repeat: do *not* print boarding passes yourself or save as PDF

          • Mzungu says:

            I had an HBO ticket and tried this a couple of weeks ago (vaguely remembering Shoestring’s comments as well!). I didn’t check in before reaching the airport, went to the self check-in machine (which I had never used before) it asked me to scan my passport, which I did. It then promptly printed a boarding pass with a seat in the back row, with no choices or intervention possible : – (

          • Shoestring says:

            my daughter’s friend (who came out to our place in the sun with us last month) bought her ticket from STA Travel, her mum sent me the details and it wasn’t exactly cheap though she didn’t buy it *that* much ahead of July. Boy that was a useless ticket. She didn’t get a free checked baggage allowance & couldn’t get free seat move at T-24, it was all payment only and on a strange scale, about £15-25 for OK seats up the front but Exit was £30 or more. Not sure if that is normal for seats bought through OTAs as we never do it that way.

          • Malte says:

            Just to confirm that this definitely worked back in May – I had made the mistake of booking a HBO long-haul fare as I didn’t need luggage.

            Checked in online but didn’t retrieve boarding pass, and changed seats at the self-service machine for free without any problem. On a full flight choice can obviously be very limited at that stage though.

  • Ken says:

    IAG have paid a special dividend (on top of normal dividend) and completed a $500m share buy back program in the last 18 months.
    Yes they are spending a lot in new planes, but the idea they are short of cash to pay pilots more is laughable.

    This smacks of blowhard management who probably wish they were Michael O’Leary

    • TGLoyalty says:

      These kind of comments don’t reflect the view of the business going forward.

      If the pilots were asking for a share of this years profits or a higher one off bonus then fine but they are asking for more in the future.

      Do you know BA’s business plan for the next 7 years? What headwinds they have? What the club suite refurbishment programme will cost them etc.

      • Chabuddy geezy says:

        A Share buy back is normally a good indication that the management has run out of ideas to grow the business. If they needed the money to buy new planes they would not have done a share buy back. BA have the cash, they are playing hard ball so other staff across iag do not ask for increased pay too. An increased cost base effects their performance in the markets too.

        • Lady London says:

          and a decreased share base (by way of a buyback) sends a signal to thé market of confidence at first glance because apparently there was spare money to do this. It also increases earnings per share as it reduces the number of shares in circulation.

          And lastly, and totally coincidentally I am sure, it can have thé effets of considerably increasing thé rewards management personally Get out of thé business as suite a lot of management / Board compensation deals award shares to management, have increase in earnings per share as a performance measure that triggers more rewards, or perhaps allow management to purchase shares advantageously….

          The pilots took a compensation hit to help BA out in bad times after 9/11. Now in 2019 they pilotd and still waiting for their £8k (with inflation if they gave an original sum of £5k) to be repaid by BA as promised.

          No wonder the pilots have read all the sigals and are “going for it”.

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