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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 ba.com.

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Comments

  1. “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.”

    This.

    Totally this, it was exactly my first reaction, in direct opposition to the guy reaction Rob had.

    Pilots have the backing of Pax, BA management are generally disliked by majority of Pax. Management continue to be the bad guys for not giving them the ability to negotiate.

    • Pilots have the backing of some passengers who support them. Likewise BA has loyal individual customers (eg those who like being Gold or Gold Guest List and all the perks that go with that) and BA also has some very loyal corporate customers who will choose BA for the deals negotiated and the direct routes they fly from LHR.

      On the other hand there are plenty of potential customers both individual.and corporate, who dislike BA and the pilots for the disruption caused by the potential to strike.

      I think BALPA is playing a dangerous strategy, many here think BALPA have played a blinder. But their actions may result in people switching allegiance to other airlines permanently.

      Equally there are many who will just be happy there is no strike and the possibility they can fly on 27 Sep and see it as BALPA caving in. All BA has to do is have the seats available at the right price and they will be sold. Many corporate customers will be thinking oh good I can.now fly on 27th and have that meeting in addition to others now rescheduled.

      • Paul Pogba says:

        If the airlines people switch to grow to accommodate the ex-BA passengers they’ll have to recruit pilots. The pilots only lose if the overall market shrinks.

        • I don’t understand how your comment has any relevance to the BA pilots grievances. If other airlines recruit pilots from BA they are apparently not going to offer them the same salary or level of seniority as they currently receive on BA (that’s according to many here and on FT). If other airlines do however offer that then I’d say all BA pilots have to do is vote with their feet and leave BA if they don’t like the deal on offer.

  2. I thought this was a strange decision initially. It has caused BA massive issues reorganising and paying for alternative flights. I wonder if BALPA can see this and also may be driven by the rostered pilots for the next strike not having their discounted flight perk removed by BA.

  3. “CANCELLED: British Airways pilot strike on 27th September is called off in a bizarre BALPA move”

    It’s been a while since you have been so opinionated, quite refreshing. But my gut reaction is your headline feels like one I might be unfortunate to digest if I happened to glance at the front page of the Daily Mail.

    I completely disagree with your opinion.

    BALPA are being canny here and I’m surprised that you haven’t seen why.

    • You mean the largest selling newspaper in the UK…..by far ?

      • Not True, The sun is the biggest selling newspaper 1.37mill per day, the Mail sells 1.2mill. Accuracy not your strong point?

      • Brian,

        Sounds like you’re equating Quantity with Quality?

        Really, surely even you’re not that naive?

        The majority of HFP’s readers here tend to be higher earning intelligent folks and I would reason, not overly keen on simplistic sensational headlines.

    • MrCinnamon says:

      Agreed. I interpreted their statement in an entirely different way.

    • BALPA has been weak all along. The week before the first strike they were publicly begging BA to return to negotiations so they could call it off.

      The position is VERY clear.

      BA will not give the pilots (and de facto all staff) a 7% profit share. The airline could not be clearer. This puts the pilots in a bind, because they know (because BA has held the line) that BA won’t blink. On the other hand, BALPA has blinked multiple times already. BALPA has lost and is now looking for an easy way out.

      Next week BA will offer each pilot a free banana per day whilst working, BALPA will hastily agree and will claim ‘BA has met most of our demands’.

  4. In my opinion BALPA are especially doing this in order to cause chaos for BA, they announce a strike and once BA have informed customers of cancellations and therefore re-routing, BALPA go and cancel the strike so BA are left with no strike and empty planes. This is BA’s biggest nightmare because it can happen many times whilst BALPA would say that this strike (3rd day) has not happened!

    This outcome potentially is way worse for BA than a strike going ahead. Its total UNCERTAINTY for the near future for BA!

    • 100%, great synopsis Michael

      • yes I agree too. presumably the pilots will now get paid for those days too, yet BA will still have lost millions through the rescheduling.

        BA thinks its being clever by cancelling everything far enough in advance that they don’t have to pay compensation. But if BALPA do this then that strategy backfires.

        • Mark Rogers says:

          Agreed. And since the strikes have been cancelled, the pilots won’t be away from work and will be paid to sit around doing nothing because there’s no passengers to fly.

          The harm inflicted on BA is at least as high as a strike, and the damage to the union and its members is reduced.

          Tube drivers use a similar strategy: strikes announced well in advance (as they have to be) cancelled after people have already made alternative arrangements. Disruption with no cost to the drivers.

    • Agreed.

      BA moved pax to avoid having to pay EU261 compensation. Now there is no strike on that date but BA cannot move people back. (The date is now less than 14 days out and if BA moved people’s flights, it would have to pay out EU261 compensation.) So the planes will fly empty for the most part. BA has to shoulder the cost of reticketing pax on other airlines.

      Meanwhile, the pilots will show up for work on the 27th and can demand regular salaries to be paid.

      So this is genius on part of the union. It totally defeated BA’s strategy which was supposed to be mitigating.

      • so EU261 has effectively becomes a tool in BALPA’s favour

        when London Underground unions announces a strike – management make preparations, but nothing like the costs that BA incur to avoid EU261

        so when LU unions cancel their planned strike, it’s much less dramatic that BALPA’s cancellation

    • The problem with this idea is that continually organising threats of labour withdrawal which you have no intention of following through on would leave BALPA and it’s members on the hook for a huge civil action by BA.

  5. I think it makes sense for BALPA to pause to consult with and ballot their members again. If a new, longer strike still gets 95% support of the pilots, *despite* BA’s playing hardball, that will carry much more weight politically than a strike that was balloted for weeks ago when the lay of the land was rather different.

  6. You have the ‘public image’ and the ‘private reality’
    BALPA are giving the public image that they are offering an olive branch and doing all possible to resolve the strike and that they are great people because they’ve cancelled the strike. But in their private offices and between the negotiators they know that the private reality is that BA are screwed having already rebooked everyone and unable to ‘undo’ the strike as such.

  7. alan young says:

    Slightly OT, but regarding BA recent strike. Fortunately I have never had to make a claim until now re my cancelled flight last week. I need to know what the process is in making a claim i.e.the form etc.
    My claim is for 2 extra nights hotel, transportation & meals. I have receipts but not sure the way forward in making the claim. Was advised by BA that I could claim up to £200 night for accommodation + +, as they sent us 2 days earlier.

    • Katie Hepworth says:

      Just go to https://www.britishairways.com/en-gb/information/help-and-contacts/complaints-and-claims
      This explains how to claim, and links to the form.
      Scan all your receipts separately, so that you can upload them individually.
      You also need your original booking reference, flight number and the details of any flight that you were rebooked onto.
      I found it pretty simple to do – took me about 10 minutes

      • I’ve recently done this too, and found it straightforward. The only question was which category does the claim fall under, if not under EU261. Some have advised ‘Other’ while others under general flight cancellation, despite it stating that if it was cancelled more than 14 days in advance and also because of strike, you are not eligible. I went with the latter, and hope that it will go through OK. I am wondering about how long it’ll take.

  8. “It was now time for a period of reflection before the dispute escalates further and irreparable damage is done to the brand.”

    Didn’t I read recently it was the worlds 55th favourite airline? Just above Air Gulag? A few strikes are nothing compared to Agent Cruz’ successes with Project Percy Pig.

  9. So BA pay the pilots’ wages on the 27th (plus the re-allocation of passengers and/or compo) and BALPA’s strike fund has an additional day in it for next time. Not quite genius. But hardly mysterious or bizarre.

    • Once maybe, but as a tactic I just can’t see this working long term. Despite what many others are saying using the threat of strike action, by announcing and then cancelling when there’s been no further negotiations whatsoever seems to me to be a form of commercial blackmail. I’m sure that BA have a team of lawyers examining this right now. If BA launch some sort of civil action against BALPA and it’s members for the costs and damages I wonder how that might change the picture.

  10. Vinay Dhawan says:

    My view when I read the news was that it puts BALPA in a position where they can justify a much longer strike, something that the rumour mill has been churning out. Also garners public support by taking the moral high ground I suppose

  11. zumodenaranja says:

    I’m of the “conspiracy non cock-up” view.

    Whilst BALPA can only do this once, I think they’ve made a brilliantly-timed move, blocking BA into a PR corner.

    If the pilots have the stomach for a longer strike (who knows ?), then a refusal by BA to negotiate would be the perfect justification for downing tools again, maybe for a week ?

    Well-paid flight crew can probably weather a few more days of unpaid leave, but the IAG Board no doubt has a pain threshold for losses which it won’t allow BA to cross…

    • Lady London says:

      Thé IAG Board has a much higher threshold for profit-sharing proposals not coming in than any short term losses.

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