British Airways Pilot Strike – 9, 10 & 27 September 2019

British Airways pilots at London Gatwick and Heathrow are to strike for three days in September in a pay dispute with the airline.

London Air Travel

London Heathrow Terminal 5
London Heathrow Terminal 5 (Image Credit: Heathrow)

British Airways pilots represented by the British Airline Pilots Union (BALPA) at London Gatwick and Heathrow are to hold three days of strike action in September 2019.

This follows a pay dispute between BA and BALPA. The strikes will be held from:

00:01 BST Monday 9 September 2019 to 23:59 BST Tuesday 10 September 2019

00:01 BST to 23:59 BST Friday 27 September 2019

The follows a vote for industrial action announced on Monday 22 July 2019, where 90% of BA pilots represented by BALPA voted 93% in favour of industrial action.

BA did attempt to seek an injunction to stop the strike at the High Court but this was unsuccessful. Talks have been taking place at the conciliation service ACAS but these have broken down without agreement.

BALPA has released the following statement:

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has today given notice to British Airways that it will call on its members to strike on 9th, 10th and 27th September 2019.

Over several days of ACAS talks BALPA put forward a number of packages that we believe would have resolved this dispute without a strike, and which we could have recommended to our members for acceptance prior to strike action. BA did not accept any of these packages, and it is clear following discussions with members over the last few days that BA’s most recent offer will not gain the support of anywhere near a majority of its pilots.

In these circumstances, with a 93% vote in favour of taking industrial action, and with no prospect of any further meaningful talks, we have no choice but to call this action.

A day of strike action will cost BA around £40m. Three days will cost in the region of £120m. The gap between BA’s position and BALPA’s position is about £5m. Our proposal remains on the table should BA wish to reach agreement prior to strike action.

British Airways is an extremely profitable and successful company, and pilots have been proud to play their part in that. In 2018 the company announced profits of £2bn. Over recent years BA pilots have made sacrifice after sacrifice to assist the company such as taking a pay cut, productivity increases, closing the final salary pension scheme, giving up annual leave days, a new rostering system, and reducing flying pay. 

In what is British Airways’ centenary year, this will be the very first time its pilots will go on strike. They do so as a last resort and with enormous frustration at the way the business is now being run.

Our ballot is valid until January, and more dates may be announced until such time as this matter is resolved.

In response British Airways has released the following statement:

It is completely unacceptable that BALPA is destroying the travel plans of tens of thousands of our customers with this unjustifiable strike action.

BALPA has given us notice that they will strike on September 9th, 10th and 27th.

We are extremely sorry that after many months of negotiations, based on a very fair offer, BALPA has decided on this reckless course of action.

We are now making changes to our schedule.  We will do everything we can to get as many people away on their journeys as possible.

However, it is likely that many of our customers will not be able to travel and we will be offering refunds and re-bookings for passengers booked on cancelled flights.

Flights on BA CityFlyer, SUN-AIR and Comair are not affected

We are exploring options to supplement our fleet by using aircraft and crew from other airlines (wet-leasing)

We are working with our partner airlines to schedule larger aircraft to take the maximum number of customers

Our proposed deal of 11.5 per cent over three years is very fair and well above the UK’s current rate of inflation, and by contrast to BALPA, has been accepted by the members of the Unite and GMB trade unions, which represent nearly 90 per cent of all British Airways colleagues including engineers, cabin crew and ground staff.

In addition to basic pay, pilots also receive annual pay increments and regular flying allowances.

We continue to pursue every avenue to find a solution to avoid industrial action and protect our customers’ travel plans

BALPA represent the vast majority of BA pilots at Gatwick and Heathrow. If the strike goes ahead it would result in very significant disruption. There would also be residual disruption beyond the strike, particularly to inbound flights, due to aircraft and crews being out of position.

Flights operated by BA CityFlyer from London City and London Stansted will not be affected by industrial action.

Codeshare flights operated by partner airlines and flights operated by franchise partners SUN-AIR of Scandinavia A/S and Comair in South Africa will also not be affected.

British Airways Contingency & Rebooking Plans

BA is providing passenger guidance on a dedicated page of its website.

BA has little option but to announce significant cancellations.

BA has introduced a flexible rebooking policy allowing passengers to change their flights to dates outside of the strike and periods at risk of residual disruption.

If you are due to fly to / from Gatwick or Heathrow on BA between Sunday 8 September and Friday 13 September 2019 or Monday 26 September and Wednesday 28 September 2019, you can rebook on to an alternative BA service up to 355 days’ ahead.

BA should also rebook passengers whose flights have been cancelled onto partner & rival airlines. However, it may take time to put these arrangements in place.

There is of course every possibility that the strike could be called off which can happen at any time between now and immediately before the strike is due to start. Based on previous incidences of strike action, BA will reinstate any cancelled flights if the strike is called off.

In the interim, the best advice for passengers is to check that you have up to date e-mail and telephone contact details for each booking you hold in the Manage By Booking tool and have the BA app installed on your smartphone.

Continue reading “British Airways Pilot Strike – 9, 10 & 27 September 2019”

BA100: 21. Engineering An Airline

100 Years Of British Airways: Engineering An Airline

London Air Travel

BA Boeing 787 at British Airways Maintenance Cardiff
BA Boeing 787 at British Airways Maintenance Cardiff (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

Amongst all the coverage of blockbuster advertising campaigns and premium cabins, it would be remiss not to mention those staff who are responsible for ensuring aircraft stay in the air, the engineers.

BA has significant engineering teams at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, as well as at dedicated facilities in Cardiff and Glasgow. The demands on engineers have of course changed over time. Flights used to operate with in-flight engineers. Concorde also used to demand a relatively huge number of engineers per aircraft.

In 1993, with the aid of generous grants from the Welsh Development Agency, BA opened a maintenance centre in Cardiff which carries out maintenance work for much of BA’s long-haul fleet. This is where significant long-haul aircraft projects such as the refurbishment of the Boeing 747 fleet have been carried out. Some work such as the refurbishment of Gatwick Boeing 777s and maintenance of Airbus A380 aircraft is carried out overseas. Short-haul “heavy” maintenance is carried out in Glasgow.

BA engineering, together with Iberia, also offers “Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul” services to other airlines.

Like all parts of BA, engineering has not been immune from competitive pressures and under the watchful eye of its parent company IAG it must be competitive against third parties. However, this is one part of BA where management has rightfully resisted the temptation to fully outsource. As well as a carrying out an important safety critical function, it also serves as an important entry point into the industry for future engineers on work experience and apprenticeships around the UK.

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BA100: 22. First Class

100 Years Of British Airways: First Class, now BA’s flagship long-haul cabin.

London Air Travel

British Airways First Class Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways First Class Cabin (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

First Class, in name at least, dates back to 1924 and the establishment of Imperial Airways.

It was at first the only class of travel, with Imperial Airways introducing second class in 1927. Of course, even with the Silver Wing service from London to Paris, also launched in 1927, First Class was far removed from what passengers expect today.

First Class was removed from short-haul aircraft in the early 1980s and it was only from the late 1970s did it start to evolve into the cabins we have today on long-haul aircraft.

Crown First Class

In the early 1980s, BA introduced Sleeper Seats to what was then known as Crown First Class with a 62″ pitch that reclined to a near horizontal position.

British Airways Crown First Class Sleeper Seat
British Airways Crown First Class Sleeper Seat


First Class was revamped in 1989, with an emphasis on service and improved catering.

British Airways First Class Sleeper Seat
British Airways First Class Sleeper Seat (Image Credit: British Airways)

The most significant change came in 1995 when BA introduced a new and radically different seat.

British Airways First Class Cabin 1995
British Airways First Class Cabin 1995 (Image Credit: British Airways)

Designed by yacht interior specialists, this seat was a herringbone design. It was the first fully horizontal flat bed on any commercial airline.

The most significant aspect of this cabin was that BA went from merely offering a seat to a flexible space that could easily be adapted to meet passenger needs such as working, sleeping or dining with a partner. This seat also offered much greater privacy as 10 of the 14 seats faced towards the window. First Class was also rebranded as simply FIRST. This was a time when BA could genuinely claim to be a market leader in First Class.

British Airways FIRST Cabin Interior, circa 2001
British Airways FIRST Cabin Interior, circa 2001 (Image Credit: British Airways)
Continue reading “BA100: 22. First Class”

BA100: 23. Lord King Of Wartnaby

100 Years Of British Airways: Lord King Of Wartnaby, Chairman of British Airways from 1981 to 1993.

London Air Travel

Lord King Of Wartnaby
Lord King Of Wartnaby

Lord King Of Wartnaby was appointed Chairman of British Airways by Margaret Thatcher in 1981.

Along with CEO Colin Marshall who Lord King recruited in 1983, he is widely credited with turning around the airline and preparing it for its successful privatisation in 1987.

Like Colin Marshall, Lord King was recruited to BA from outside the aviation industry, having previously founded his own ball bearing business and been president and Chairman of Babcock International.

Lord King saw this as an advantage. Speaking to Fortune magazine, Lord King said “There seemed to be an advantage to not knowing too much about the business. […] In my ignorance I could do things I might not have done if I had been better informed.”

Lord King was not known for having an emollient manner and had little patience with journalists. He was famously furious with a Financial Times profile of him. His recruitment of Colin Marshall, known as being effective foil to Lord King with his cool and unflappable style, showed a degree of self-awareness.

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BA100: 24. “Putting People First”

100 Years Of British Airways: “Putting People First”, the training programme for tens of thousands of BA staff in the 1980s.

London Air Travel

British Airways, "The World's Favourite Airline", 1983.
British Airways, “The World’s Favourite Airline”, 1983.

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

“Putting People First” was a training programme designed by Danish Firm Time Manager International for over 20,000 front-line BA employees in the early 1980s.

The aim of the two day training course was to motivate staff “to enjoy giving good customer service to the airline’s customers, dealing with stress and difficulties, and how to make the most effective contact with people”.

It also had the aim of “enabling different groups of employees to appreciate and understand their interdependence upon one another for a congenial ‘people orientated environment’ which in turn forms the basis for focusing the airline’s attention on the customer and meeting his or her needs.”

It is widely credited with helping turn around BA’s image in the 1980s. It was followed up the training programmes for tens of thousands more staff who weren’t in direct contact with customers as well as a programme “Managing People First” for BA managers.

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BA100: 25. The Special Relationship

100 Years Of British Airways: BA’s long search for a joint-venture partner in its most important long-haul market, North America.

London Air Travel

American Airlines Flagship Lounge, Miami, Views of the apron
American Airlines Miami (Image Credit: London Air Travel)

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

Ever since the VC10 and Boeing 707 aircraft allowed for regular non-stop flights from London to the USA, North America has been a very important market for BOAC and BA.

BOAC North America Advert 1970s
BOAC North America Advert 1970s

Today, it is the most important market for BA. Aside from economic and cultural links between the UK and the US, BA has geography on its side as Heathrow is well positioned to pick up connecting traffic from mainland Europe.

However, it took BA a long time to secure a US transatlantic partner which is vital for offering connections and assisting with the distribution of flights in the local US markets.

Growth in US had also been stymied by bilateral agreements between the UK and the US. In spite of the USA’s self-styled image as the land of the free, international interest in the US domestic aviation market is limited due to foreign ownership restrictions on US airlines.

“The Pittsburgh Connection”

In 1993, BA acquired a share in what was then USAir and the two airlines formed a joint-venture.

BA launched daily flights between London Gatwick and Pittsburgh using a USAir Boeing 767 in BA livery and staffed by USAir cabin crew in BA uniforms to connect to over 70 USAir destinations in Pittsburgh. Further services were launched to Baltimore in October 1993 and Charlotte in January 1994.

However, the joint-venture proved to be short-lived with USAir considering it to be unfairly favourable towards BA. After BA declined to renegotiate the terms of the joint-venture, it ended in 1997 with BA disposing of its interest in USAir.

Continue reading “BA100: 25. The Special Relationship”

BA100: 26. British Airtours Flight 28M

100 Years Of British Airways: British Airtours Flight 28M on 22 August 1985.

London Air Travel

British Airtours Flight 28M
British Airtours Flight 28M

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

On 22 August 1985, a British Airtours Boeing 737-236 aircraft, registration G-BGJL operating as flight 28M from Manchester to Corfu, experienced an uncontained left engine failure approximately 36 seconds after take-off.

The aircraft was carrying 131 passengers and 6 crew members.

The engine failure punctured a fuel wing tank access panel. Fuel leaking from the wing ignited directly behind the engine. The crew, who at the time were unaware of the fire, abandoned take-off.

On becoming aware of the fire, the Captain ordered an evacuation of the aircraft. However, the fire was carried onto and around the aircraft fuselage and it quickly developed inside the aircraft. The aircraft was destroyed by the fire and 53 passengers and 2 crew lost their lives.

An investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch found that the fire developed in the way it did primarily because of the positioning of the aircraft relative to the prevailing wind.

The investigation also found that major contributory factors were the vulnerability of the wing tank access panels to impact, a lack of effective provision for fighting major fires inside the aircraft cabin, the vulnerability of the aircraft hull to fire and the nature of the emissions from the burning materials inside the aircraft.

The major cause of fatalities was rapid incapacitation due to dense smoke inside the cabin. This had been aggravated by delays to the evacuation caused by a door malfunction and restricted access to the exits.

The accident prompted a number of radical changes to airline safety procedures.

These include aircraft now stopping on the runway, rather than taxing away from the runway, for the evacuation. Access to emergency exits was improved with the removal of seats. Aircraft cabin materials including seat covers and wall and ceiling panels were also to be fire resistant.

A memorial to the victims of the disaster was unveiled in 2018. (BBC News)

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BA100: 27. Imperial Airways’ Silver Wing Service

100 Years Of British Airways: Imperial Airways’ Silver Wing service, introduced in 1927.

London Air Travel

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

On 1 May 1927, Imperial Airways introduced its “Silver Wing” service on the London – Paris route.

This is considered as the first ever luxury in flight service and achieved recognition worldwide at the time.

It was operated with a dedicated fleet of three Armstrong Whitworth Argosy three engined aircraft, named the City of Birmingham, City of Glasgow and City of Wellington.

The aircraft were painted silver externally and also had silver and grey cabin interiors. New more comfortable seating with shoulder and head rests was also installed.

The aim of the service was to make air travel more popular and to compete against the Golden Arrow service on Continental Railways. The flight left London at noon each day. On the two hour and 30 minute flight a steward would serve a four course lunch and offer a bar service to the 20 passengers on board the aircraft.

The concept of the “Silver Wing” service was also adopted by British European Airlines. You can see footage of the Imperial Airways City of Glasgow aircraft in flight in this silent film above.

Imperial Airways Silver Wing Service Advertisement 1930
Imperial Airways Silver Wing Service Advertisement 1930

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BA100: 28. BOAC Presents “Tomorrow Is Theirs”

100 Years Of British Airways: “Tomorrow Is Theirs” a promotional film by BOAC from the 1950s.

London Air Travel

"BOAC Takes Good Care Of You"
“BOAC Takes Good Care Of You”

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

Here is a promotional film by BOAC from the early 1950s entitled “Tomorrow Is Theirs”.

It covers all aspects of BOAC’s operation from engineering to flight and cabin crew training in the 1950s. This was of course before the advent of the jet age.

The film also shows the huge advances in flight operations and passenger reservation systems over the past 70 years. In this era, aircraft were tracked manually with plastic models on a map!

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BA100: 29. Flight BA38

100 Years Of British Airways: Flight BA38 which landed short of the runway at Heathrow on 17 January 2008.

London Air Travel

British Airways Logo
British Airways Logo (Image Credit: British Airways)

Welcome to our 100 part series on the history of BA and its predecessor airlines.

At 12:42 GMT on 17 January 2008 a British Airways Boeing 777-200 aircraft, registration G-YMMM, landed 330m short of Runway 27L at London Heathrow Airport.

The aircraft was operating as flight BA38 from Beijing to London and the flight operated uneventfully until its approach to Heathrow.

On its approach, the right engine ceased to respond to auto-throttle commands for increased power and instead the power reduced. Seven seconds later the left engine power reduced. This led to a loss of airspeed and the aircraft came close to stalling. It landed short of the runway, just 110m inside of the perimeter fence of Heathrow.

All 16 crew members and 136 passengers on board the aircraft survived the incident. However, one passenger sustained a serious injury due to the landing gear penetrating the aircraft fuselage. The aircraft sustained considerable damage with its nose landing gear and main landing gears collapsing. The aircraft was considered damaged beyond economic repair and was written off.

An investigation by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch of the Department for Transport found that ice had accreted within the fuel system of the aircraft causing a restriction to the flow of fuel to both engines. The ice had formed from water that had occurred naturally in the fuel. The investigation found that the aircraft was compliant with its certification requirements and these did not take account of this phenomenon.

All 16 crew members received the BA safety medal for their performance during the incident, which is BA’s highest honour.

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