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

British Airways pilots at London Gatwick and Heathrow are currently in a pay dispute with the airline.

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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 have called for strike action in a pay dispute with the airline.

Update 20:05 BST Wednesday 18 September 2019

BALPA has unilaterally chosen to call off the planned 24 hour strike on Friday 27 September 2019.

BALPA has issued the following statement:

The British Airline Pilots Association has today called off the next strike scheduled for 27th September in the dispute between British Airways and its pilots.
 
BALPA said the strikes on 9th and 10th September had demonstrated the anger and resolve of pilots. It was now time for a period of reflection before the dispute escalates further and irreparable damage is done to the brand.
 
BALPA hopes BA will now change its approach and negotiate seriously with a view to ending this dispute.
 
BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said:
 
“Someone has to take the initiative to sort out this dispute and with no sign of that from BA the pilots have decided to take the responsible course. In a genuine attempt at establishing a time out for common sense to prevail, we have lifted the threat of the strike on the 27th September.
 
“BA passengers rightly expect BA and its pilots to resolve their issues without disruption and now is the time for cool heads and pragmatism to be brought to bear. I hope BA and its owner IAG show as much responsibility as the pilots.”
 
Should BA refuse meaningful new negotiations, BALPA retains the right to announce further strike dates.

BA has acknowledged BALPA’s notification. However, it has not yet decided whether to reinstate previously cancelled flights.

BALPA is required to give 14 days’ notice of any additional strike action.

The latest strike news and guidance from BA is on ba.com Please note this is subject to constant review and may be amended and supplemented at any time.

You can check the status of your booking using the Manage My Booking tool on ba.com. Where possible, this is the best means to review and change your booking as BA’s call centres are experiencing very high call volumes.

Flights operated by BA CityFlyer Ltd at London City and Stansted, franchise partners SUN-AIR of Scandinavia A/S and Comair in southern Africa, and codeshare partners are not affected by any strike action. These flights mostly have BA flight numbers outside of the flight number range of BA5-BA1000 and BA2000-2999 used by BA at Heathrow and Gatwick.

BA is offering affected passengers rebooking on a wide range of Oneworld alliance partner airlines and rival airlines. It has progressively added further rebooking options on rival airlines. Therefore, if you’ve not yet successfully rebooked it’s worth trying again.

Passengers due to travel to Edinburgh, Leeds and Newcastle can also rebook onto LNER train services from Kings Cross railway station.

If you are rebooked onto an alternative flight, any consequential costs such as ground transportation will be at your own expense. If your flight is cancelled and you wish to claim for disruption expenses you can do so through the BA website.

BA has advised that members of the Executive Club who may miss out on earning tier points (and thus retaining or attaining a certain tier in the scheme) will not lose out if their flight has been cancelled and BA will provide further guidance on this in the next few days.

Dispute Background

The strike 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 and Court of Appeal but this was unsuccessful. Talks have been taking place at the conciliation service ACAS but these have broken down without agreement.

BALPA released the following statement on Friday 23 August 2019:

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 released the following statement on Friday 23 August 2019:

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 southern 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 Thursday 26 September and Saturday 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.

How Might This Dispute End?

Nobody can predict exactly how the strike will unfold.

However, as we have seen with the planned Heathrow strikes earlier this month, strikes can be called off at the very last minute.

In a pay negotiation, both sides need a deal. BA needs to agree a deal to stop further strike action. BALPA needs a deal to secure a pay rise for its members. Both sides are very well versed in industrial relations.

Arguably (and BALPA probably know this) the union’s leverage is at its greatest before the strike actually takes place. A seat for sale on a flight is the ultimate perishable product – when a flight is cancelled it immediately goes from being worth potentially thousands of pounds to nothing. In the case of airline industrial action once the strike has started there is considerable financial damage that cannot be undone.

The complicating factor in this dispute is that whilst BA’s parent company International Airlines Group is not directly involved in negotiations, from public comments, it is conscious of what precedent may be set for other airlines in the group.

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2 thoughts on “British Airways Pilot Strike – 9, 10 & 27 September 2019”

  1. Your dates are incorrect on this article I fly out to Malaga on SATURDAY 28th September to Malaga from LHR. The article has put –

    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. You need to proof read before printing!!

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