British Airways cabin crews walk off the job

British Airways cabin crews has begun a five-day strike to protest cost-cutting changes at the loss-making airline, forcing it to scrap almost half its flights out of London’s Heathrow Airport.

LONDON — British Airways cabin crews has begun a five-day strike to protest cost-cutting changes at the loss-making airline, forcing it to scrap almost half its flights out of London’s Heathrow Airport.

A further two walkouts are planned by the Unite union if the long-running dispute is not resolved — an increasingly likely eventuality after weekend talks broke down in acrimony.

BA said Monday it plans to carry 70 per cent of booked passengers over the strike period, with flight schedules at Gatwick and London City airports unaffected by the walkout.

But services at Heathrow were hit — adding to travel misery for passengers just weeks after the closure of European airspace because of the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud and a seven-day BA cabin crew strike in March.

Most of the anger from affected passengers was again directed at the striking workers, some of whom gathered on an open-top double-decker bus near Heathrow’s perimeter fence, waving banners reading “Brutish Airways.”

On another picket line at a nearby Underground station, workers held placards with the message: “We had no choice.”

That sentiment wasn’t welcomed by Maureen Lonergan, 66, who had to fly to London from Manchester a day early to make a connecting flight to Venice, forcing her to pay for an extra night’s accommodation in the British capital.

“I think the strikers are greedy. We’ve heard they get paid more than other airline staff anyway,” Lonergan said. “The way the economy is, they should be grateful they have jobs in the first place. It puts you off flying BA.”

The airline has scrambled to operate as many flights as possible — using non-striking cabin crews, staff seconded from elsewhere in the company after undergoing training, leasing aircraft complete with crew and transferring passengers to competitor airlines.

It planned to operate 60 per cent of long-haul flights and 50 per cent of short-haul flights from its Heathrow base. Cancelled flights included services to New York, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Rome, Vienna and Prague.

The walkout in the increasingly bitter feud follows the failure of weekend talks between the Unite union, which represents around 90 per cent of BA’s 12,000 cabin crew staff, and the airline.

British Airways said it has accepted an invitation for more negotiations, and says it believes the union will also accept.

While the two sides are close to agreement on many issues, mistrust and bitterness have made a deal elusive. Unite joint general secretary Tony Woodley accused BA of having a “petty, vindictive” attitude after it revoked strikers’ low-cost travel — a cherished cabin-crew perk — and took disciplinary action against striking workers.

British Airways said it had already offered to reinstate travel concessions to cabin crew — which see them pay just 10 per cent of normal fares to commute to work from across Britain or continental Europe — once all elements of its offer were implemented, but it accused Woodley and the union of reopening issues which had been settled.

BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh also expressed anger that one of the union’s leaders, Derek Simpson, had been posting updates on Saturday’s talks on Twitter.

The strikes would bring more financial hardship to BA, which posted a record annual loss of 425 million pounds ($611 million) on Friday.

The airline has been struggling to have a clear run since cabin crews walked out twice in March for a total of seven days. More flights were cancelled earlier this month during the sporadic closure of European airspace because of the volcanic ash and the airline ran a curtailed service last week when cabin crews had been due to strike — the walkout was delayed by a legal challenge from BA.

The airline’s combative CEO has repeatedly warned that contentious changes to work practices, including fewer staff on long-haul flights and a yearlong pay freeze, are necessary for BA to survive.

The company has been hit hard by the financial downturn because of its heavy reliance on premium fare passengers on the trans-Atlantic route. As many leisure and business travellers seek lower cost options, there are fears that its core business will never fully recover.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer Rebels forward Arshdeep Bains eyes a loose puck in front of the Medicine Hat Tigers net Saturday night in WHL action at the Centrium. (Photo by ROB WALLATOR/Red Deer Rebels)
Rebels fall short in 12th straight loss

Tigers 5 Rebels 2 (Saturday) Tigers 3 Rebels 2 (Monday) The Red… Continue reading

Red Deer property owners will receive their 2019 property assessment notices in the next few days.  (File photo by Advocate staff)
Red Deer awaiting more details on how federal budget impacts city

The City of Red Deer is awaiting more information on how much… Continue reading

With a ban on sit-in dining once again in place, Las Palmeras owner Andre Lemus is gearing up for more takeout and delivery business. He has also applied to set up an outdoor patio, where dining is allowed under new restrictions. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Big interest in outdoor patios in Red Deer as sit-down dining banned again

City of Red Deer has tweaked its patio regulations to make it easier to get a permit

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Ottawa Senators' Connor Brown, right, scores on Calgary Flames goalie Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Calgary, Alta., Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Connor Brown scores twice for Ottawa Senators in 4-2 win over Calgary Flames

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. Priestman says her goal is to help Canada move up the Olympic podium after back-to-back bronze medals at the 2012 and 2016 Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Olympic soccer draw will allow Canadians to start planning on and off the pitch

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Federal government’s extension of CEWS in budget is some good news for CFL franchises

Canada's Brendan Bottcher dropped a 6-3 decision to Scotland's Bruce Mouat in the men's final of the Humpty's Champions Cup. Bottcher makes a shot against Scotland at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Friday, April 9, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

Mixed results for Canadian teams at Champions Cup as Homan wins, Bottcher loses

University of Victoria rowing coach Barney Williams is photographed in the stands during the Greater Victoria Invitational at CARSA Performance Gym at the University of Victoria in Victoria, B.C., on Friday, November 29, 2019. The University of Victoria says Williams has resigned effective immediately. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

University of Victoria women’s rowing coach resigns by mutual agreement

Stewart Cink watches his drive down the second fairway during the final round of the RBC Heritage golf tournament in Hilton Head Island, S.C., Sunday, April 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

Cink coasts to win at Hilton Head for 2nd title of season

The Official UEFA Champions League match balls are on display ahead of the Champions League quarter final second leg soccer match between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield stadium in Liverpool, England, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Jon Super)
Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

Threats of expulsion as UEFA confronts Super League rebel 12

San Jose Sharks center Patrick Marleau (12) motions to the crowd during a break to mark his passing Gordie Howe for most NHL games played in the first period of an NHL hockey game Monday, April 19, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Sharks’ Marleau breaks Howe’s NHL games played record

Most Read