BA Heathrow Cabin Crew Strike Christmas Day & Boxing Day

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British Airways Tailfin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish/British Airways)
British Airways Tailfin (Image Credit: Nick Morrish/British Airways)

Unite, the Union which represents BA’s “Mixed Fleet” cabin crew at London Heathrow has called industrial action on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Update 22 December 2016: The industrial action has been called off and all flights are scheduled to operate as normal.

Update 3 January 2017: A new set of strike dates has been announced for Tuesday 10 & Wednesday 11 January 2017. Please see here for further information.

The key points are that:

  • Flights from London Gatwick, London City and Stansted airports will not be affected
  • BA aims to operate all short-haul and long-haul flights from London Heathrow
  • Short-haul flights from London Heathrow to select destinations may be at risk of disruption
  • If your flights is operated by a codeshare partner such as Aer Lingus, American Airlines, Finnair, Iberia, Japan Airlines, and Vueling (it should be clear in your booking which is the operating airline) it will not be affected
  • Refunds and rebookings to alternative dates and routes are available, but only for bookings that are at risk of disruption

The destinations that may be at risk from London Heathrow are:

  • Aberdeen, Basle, Belfast, Bergen, Bilbao, Bologna, Budapest, Dusseldorf, Gibraltar, Gothenburg, Hamburg, Hanover, Helsinki, Kiev, Krakow, Lisbon, Luxembourg, Manchester, Marseille, Oslo, Paris Orly, Pisa, Prague, Stavanger, St Petersburg, Stuttgart, Vienna, Venice, Warsaw and Zagreb
  • If you are travelling on another short-haul route from London Heathrow your flight should not be affected
  • The reason why the above destinations are at risk is that these routes are ordinarily operated exclusively by the cabin crew fleet that has voted for industrial action

Somewhat ironically, very few short-haul flights actually operate on Christmas Day.

BA has not indicated whether there may be modifications to the in flight service on some flights to account for the fact that some may operate with reduced numbers of cabin crew.

What is the background to this dispute?

BA has a number of cabin crew fleets at London Heathrow.  Each fleet has its own industrial agreements with the airline and operate designated routes.  Historically, EuroFleet have operated all short-haul flights and the Worldwide fleet have operated all long-haul flights.

In 2010, BA introduced “Mixed Fleet”.  This fleet operates both short-haul and long-haul flights.  They do not fly with colleagues on EuroFleet and Worldwide. All cabin recruitment at London Heathrow is now on to Mixed Fleet.   Approximately 4,250 of BA’s 15,000+ cabin crew are part of Mixed Fleet.

The introduction of Mixed Fleet has been controversial as Mixed Fleet have radically different terms and conditions compared to other cabin crew colleagues at London Heathrow.  This is specifically with regard to pay and rostering.  There has been much criticism about levels of pay and the demanding nature of rosters with complaints of insufficient rest between flights down-route and at base.

Mixed Fleet initially did not have union recognition.  However, Unite now represents approximately 50% of Mixed Fleet crew and 1,200 Mixed Fleet cabin crew voted for industrial action after rejecting a recent pay offer from the airline.

What action would you recommend for passengers?

Talks are likely to take place between Unite and BA in the coming days and the strike may well be called off.

In the interim, we would recommend:

  • Check your flight details on the Manage My Booking tool and ensure your e-mail address and phone number are in the booking so you are contacted if your flight is cancelled.
  • Download the BA app on your smartphone to receive “push” notifications regarding your flight.
  • Also download the MyFlights app on your smartphone.  This is a third party app that regularly checks your booking and will notify you of any changes, sometimes before the airline does.
  • If due to the reason for your trip you cannot have the uncertainty of a short-notice cancellation then contact BA to either rebook an alternative date or a reroute to another nearby destination.  For example, if you are booked to fly to Paris Orly (which is at risk of disruption) you are be able to change your flight to Paris Charles de Gualle (which is not at risk of disruption).
  • If the strike is called off at the last minute, BA will probably reinstate any flights that were cancelled.  However, if you have already changed your bookng, you should not be required to reinstate your original booking.
  • BA should also be able to offer rebooking on other airlines in International Airlines Group (the parent company of BA), Vueling, Iberia and Aer Lingus if your flight is cancelled.

We welcome any thoughts and comments below: