British Airways cabin crew launch new round of strikes

LONDON — British Airways cabin crew launched a new five-day strike on Sunday, as a bitter dispute with management over pay and working conditions drags on with little sign of a breakthrough.

LONDON — British Airways cabin crew launched a new five-day strike on Sunday, as a bitter dispute with management over pay and working conditions drags on with little sign of a breakthrough.

BA said flights to and from Heathrow, one of Europe’s busiest hubs, will be affected by the walkout. But the carrier said it can operate more than half of its services because more cabin crew than expected had decided to cross the picket line.

It said all flights will operate at the smaller Gatwick and London City airports.

Cabin crew walked off their jobs on May 24 and began the new round of strikes Sunday after talks collapsed Friday. They plan to strike for another five days from June 5, if a solution to the long-running dispute is not found.

Seven days of walkouts in March over the same dispute cost BA around 43 million pounds ($63 million).

The airline said it planned to fly more than 70 per cent of its long-haul flights, compared to the 60 per cent it operated during last week’s strike action. Fifty-five per cent of short-haul flights will take off, slightly more than the 50 per cent last week.

Heathrow airport’s Web site showed that many outgoing flights were scheduled to fly, but a handful of BA flights arriving from places including South Africa, Washington D.C. and Egypt had to be cancelled Sunday morning.

The Unite union, which represents about 90 per cent of BA’s 12,000 cabin crew staff, has blamed BA’s chief executive Willie Walsh for the deadlock.

BA has said it has made a “very fair” offer to workers and that the disputed changes, including fewer staff on long-haul flights, are necessary for the airline to cope with reduced demand for air travel in the wake of the financial crisis.