Unite calls for strike action by BA London Heathrow cabin crew on 10 & 11 January 2017

Unite, the Union which represents BA’s “Mixed Fleet” cabin crew at London Heathrow has called industrial action for 48 hours on Tuesday 10 & Wednesday 11 January 2017.

Update Friday 6 January: BA has now updated its schedules for the days affected by the disruption.  Some flights from London Heathrow will be merged and you should check the guidance on ba.com and your flight details on the Manage My Booking tool to check if your flight is affected. 

If your flight is not affected then cancellations and rebookings will not be allowed unless they are already permitted by the terms of your booking.

Previous information and guidance:

The call for strike action is a continuation of a pay dispute between Unite and BA that resulted in the announcement of industrial action over Christmas Day and Boxing Day. This was called off following an improved pay offer from BA which has now been rejected.

Approximately 2,000 members of BA’s 15,000+ cabin crew are members of Unite on Mixed Fleet.

BA has not yet published any initial guidance on its website ba.com. However, it will publish a strike schedule on Friday.  Until, the strike schedule is published BA is not allowing any rebookings or cancellations outside the existing terms of booked tickets.

Whilst BA will use Head Office staff who are trained as cabin crew to operate flights, it is likely that there will still be some cancellations. However, BA seems confident that it will be able to accommodate all booked passengers through rebooking on alternative dates and flights. As January is a quiet month for travel, this seems realistic.

Short-haul flights are most at risk of cancellation – primarily to minimise the revenue impact of the strike and ongoing operational disruption.

The key points known at the moment are that:

  • All flights to and from London Gatwick, London City and Stansted airports will not be affected
  • BA is likely to aim to operate all long-haul flights to and from London Heathrow
  • Short-haul flights between London Heathrow and select destinations are most at risk of disruption
  • If your flight 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 should become available later this week, but only for bookings that are at risk of disruption. Existing booking terms will still apply to flights not at risk of disruption.

The destinations most likely to 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
  • 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

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 again 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.
  • Keep an eye on BA’s trade website for guidance issued to travel agents
  • 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 likely to be at risk of disruption) you are be able to change your flight to Paris Charles de Gualle (which is not likely to be 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 by then you have already changed your booking, you should not be required to reinstate your original booking.
  • If your flight is cancelled 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.

For the latest news on the cabin crew strike, please visit our strike information page.

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