The British Airways plan to relaunch its short-haul operation at London Gatwick on a low cost model appeared to be on the verge of collapse last night.
BALPA, the British Airways pilot union, terminated a ballot of members after claiming that British Airways had gone back on assurances it had made.
The airline has previously said that it would not go ahead with the new carrier if it could not reach agreement with BALPA and could instead pull out of Gatwick short-haul flying entirely.
As we covered here, the cost of pilots for the new Gatwick operation represented one of the few areas where British Airways felt it could reduce costs.
BALPA would never have allowed the airline to hire new pilots on lower pay. The two sides had been working on a deal which would allow Heathrow Airbus pilots – some currently flying, some in the ‘holding pool’ – to be seconded to the new Gatwick airline. Whilst pay would have been reduced, in line with Gatwick’s more seasonal schedule, pilots would have retained their place on the seniority list and would have a guaranteed path to return to Heathrow in the future.
According to a letter circulated by BALPA last night, which we have seen:
“….. we have been trying to insert a clause in the contract of employment which would have protected the contractual rights of LGW-based pilots by placing an obligation on BA to ensure that Newco complies with any collective agreements or procedures agreed between BALPA and BA.”
In plain English, BALPA wanted Gatwick pilots to automatically receive any pay increase or other benefits negotiated by Heathrow crew.
BALPA claimed that British Airways had agreed to such an obligation but, when it came to making it legally binding, refused.
“we have received an email from BA making it clear that the company is not prepared to include the protection clause we require.”
“we can no longer recommend the proposed LGW shorthaul agreement. As such we have terminated the consultative ballot with immediate effect.”
It isn’t clear what happens next. British Airways won’t risk a pilot strike by recruiting a new pilot fleet on lower salaries for Gatwick. BALPA may be willing to see BA lose its Gatwick presence rather than see a split in the pilot fleet – after all, legacy cabin crew saw their pay reduced to nearer the level of newly hired Mixed Fleet in the restructuring last year.
Who blinks now? Will BA put the Gatwick slots on the market? Will BA agree to give Gatwick pilots the automatic right to new benefits given to Heathrow pilots? Will the LCC idea now be dropped and Gatwick short haul put back in its original state? Will the slots be given to Vueling – although that could also lead to a strike? We will see.
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As a reminder, there are various ways of earning Avios points from UK credit cards. Many cards also have generous sign-up bonuses!
There are two official British Airways American Express cards. Both have increased sign-up bonuses until 2nd November 2021:
You can also get generous sign-up bonuses by applying for American Express cards which earn Membership Rewards points, such as:
The 30,000 points bonus on Amex Gold runs to 9th November 2021. The 60,000 points bonus on The Platinum Card runs to 2nd November 2021.
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