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CANCELLED (updated 20/9): British Airways pilot strike on 27th September is called off in a bizarre BALPA move

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If you are holding an industrial dispute – or indeed any sort of dispute – standing your ground is one of the keys to success.  Once you are seen as weak, your opponent realises that it has the upper hand.

I mention this because it was my gut reaction to the announcement that the British Airways pilot union, BALPA, has called off the strike on 27th September.

The reason for cancelling the strike is bizarre.  It is NOT because British Airways has returned to the negotiating table.  BALPA claims that it has cancelled the strike because BA is NOT willing to negotiate, which makes zero sense to me.

What is BALPA expecting now?  That British Airways will be rushing back to negotiations?  I’m not so sure.

British Airways strike off

British Airways has now reinstated a percentage of its schedule for 27th September.  If you had been transferred to another flight, either on BA on a different day or on another airline, you have the option of moving back.  If you accepted a refund, British Airways can rebook you for the price you originally paid.  What BA cannot do, of course, is move you back if you took a refund and then paid to rebook on another airline.

Who knows where this goes now?  This is the full announcement from BALPA:

The British Airline Pilots Association has today called off the next strike scheduled for 27th September in the dispute between British Airways and its pilots.
BALPA said the strikes on 9th and 10th September had demonstrated the anger and resolve of pilots. It was now time for a period of reflection before the dispute escalates further and irreparable damage is done to the brand.
BALPA hopes BA will now change its approach and negotiate seriously with a view to ending this dispute.
BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:
“Someone has to take the initiative to sort out this dispute and with no sign of that from BA the pilots have decided to take the responsible course. In a genuine attempt at establishing a time out for common sense to prevail, we have lifted the threat of the strike on the 27th September.
“BA passengers rightly expect BA and its pilots to resolve their issues without disruption and now is the time for cool heads and pragmatism to be brought to bear. I hope BA and its owner IAG show as much responsibility as the pilots.”
Should BA refuse meaningful new negotiations, BALPA retains the right to announce further strike dates.

You can keep up to date with the strike news on this page of

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  1. Lady London says:

    It’s weak. They’ve lost their “bottle”.

    Either that, or their so-far excellent communications person, is on holiday this week.

    Or “I’m not sure that BALPA even realises that it has put British Airways in a tricky … situation”. Perhaps it’s all a bit more Machiavellian, and they do.

    I for one was disgusted to see a comment that BA was rostering 5 lots of pilots onto the same now non-existent SFO flight on the strike on 9th and 10th, just so they could dock the pay of 5* the pilots that would have been needed, for 5 days which is apparently what the trip is normally paid for a pilot who does it.

    If it’s within 2 weeks of the was-to-be-strike date and BA has cancelled flights and got planes in wrong position around the world, tough if that’s the tactics they;ve been using against the pilots. That, and trying to remove travel privileges which are custom and practice (this won’t stand up if challenged in court, because plenty of rich investment banks tried to remove non-contractual benefits and lost in court).

  2. Unsavage gerbil says:

    BALPA look reasonable in the eyes of the public by cancelling strike, BA look bad, cancellations cost BA loads, eating into profits and eroding customer confidence in BA.

    It’s a long game this.

    Wait until November, possible ten day strike in the offing, after which BA will fold and give in.

  3. I don’t agree, Rob. I can’t see how this extra day by itself would have suddenly persuaded BA. BALPA have still inflicted a lot of additional costs on BA but without their members (and cabin crew) having to lose more pay. They come away looking the more reasonable party and still have an active mandate to carry out further action if no progress is made.

    • I agree. That was my immediate reaction – with BA having cancelled flights, the damage is already done and, as Rob says, BA is now in a tricky position regarding whether to reinstate flights or not.

  4. What a disgusting union and disgusting greedy selfish pilots.
    Doing a disservice to the countless numbers of lower paid people around the country who are genuinely in need of union protection.

    I pity those less fortunate people elsewhere who will no longer get sympathy when they are forced to strike due to their genuinely low pay or poor working conditions.

    Scum like Balpa and London underground unions have caused countless losses and misery to industry and public alike.
    This is not in the spirit of what union protection was created for.
    Shame on greedy pilots; balpa and all those who support them.

    • RedEyeDonkey says:

      Hear hear!

      Professionals above a certain pay grade or some criteria like that shouldn’t be allowed to unionise. Pilots are in shortage yet somehow none of the BA pilots think leaving is a better option. I wonder why?… oh right the deal they’re already on is too good to walk away from when you include their seniority, perks and privileges.

      • The Original David says:

        And pilots aren’t in shortage either – it’s planes that the aviation industry is lacking at the moment.

    • I’m sure they’ll be gutted about not getting “sympathy”

  5. Mistakes from both sides so far and little movement towards settlement.
    It was BALPA’s move and here we have it. Over to BA. I don’t think BA could get away with not restoring a majority of the cancelled flights (who will source and report that data), though I suspect many will remain cancelled …. and with that BA’s chance to jab back via rosters.
    The next BALPA strike notification is a key one. If BA can parry or ride that one well, they will become very confident. My feeling is BA believe they had mitigated the 27/9 date pretty well; the question is whether they can mitigate more difficult strike periods.

  6. I was looking to travel on the 27th and looks like flights are being reinstated as I bagged a seat LHR – ORD and the seat map was empty!

  7. Cassandra says:

    Well, I’m glad these pilots are not making decisions about my family and home life, the political situation in the US or UK, spending my kids’ inheritance, major investments, life or death…wait they do make the latter decisions.
    Oh well, I don’t trust their collective judgement on striking or planned striking or not striking. Let’s hope they do better on the life or death category.

  8. There are a lot of jobs that pay more than BA pilots – city lawyers, some bankers, VC, technology.

    But I’m struggling to think of any that pay so much for so little work, and where at the same time the employees are so disaffected that they actively seek to damage the company that gives them this lifestyle. I have a BA captain in my close circle and the ratio of pay vs work/stress he has to endure is laughable compared to other people I know in senior professional jobs.

    BA pilots, one of the most entitled of all professions.

    • Halo jealousy there Gary?

      • Gary is missing a point – if you’re good at what you do, it isn’t stressful. It’s fun. Look at all the people you know who are top of their game.

    • How about FTSE100 CEO? Or airline CEO 😉

      Some people get paid for taking responsibility, not necessarily for hours worked. Who’s to say that being responsible for the lives of several hundred people, and an aircraft worth tens or hundreds of millions of pounds, isn’t sufficiently stressful to justify the pay? Has your captain friend ever faced a real-life in-flight emergency where there was a real possibility of losing the aircraft and all on board? That’s when pilots earn their money. Don’t begrudge them it.

    • The Savage Squirrel says:

      Like most comments that any job is cushy or is so much pay for so little work … we’re in a free country and you’re allowd to do it; go ahead and apply….

  9. “The reason for cancelling the strike is bizarre”. I too do not agree. Look at it another way, BA are not wanting to talk and having reached stalemate, I suspect BA would be ‘happy’ for the pilots strike to take place later this month because this will give BA pilots really bad press and BA will capitalise and use this to their advantage? However, BALP’s tactics, in my mind are clear because on BA’s past performance they will remain aloof and having cancelled this strike this will allow BALP to call for a lengthy strike with the backing of the public. I suspect BALP knows that this is the only way to get a better deal for their members! As a side, BA must recognise the low moral in BA (I am not employed by any airline just a leisure traveller) and stop the poor service and make BA great again.

  10. I see this as a clever move by BALPA
    The full impact of a strike without striking. Pilots stilll get paid and BA still suffer a huge financial reputational loss
    Next move is call more strike days. BA cancel flights two weeks out and BALPA call off strikes 10 days prior. Same result financially for BA but The suspect zero cost to Pilots.
    Could we then see another strike date called and this time BA do not cancel flights suspecting that they will be cancelled – the strike the goes ahead resulting in chaos and huge compensation payments
    Perhaps I’m overly suspicious but it seems like a win win for BALPA

  11. It’s a clever move by BALPA. Ball now in BAs court.
    If no movement from them then the justification for a 10 day strike increases.
    There will also be enormous pressure on BA to prevent that if there is also a no deal Brexit. Yellow hammer scenarios suggest there could be issues with some supplies and air freight will be both essential and at a premium in the first month following such an outcome.

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