BA Cabin Crew Strike

British Airways Cabin Crew (Image Credit: British Airways)
British Airways Cabin Crew (Image Credit: British Airways)

Unite, the union which represents British Airways “Mixed Fleet” cabin crew at London Heathrow have now ended nearly two months of continuous strike action on Wednesday 30 August.  

Unite has not announced any further beyond this date.  As Unite is required to give BA 14 days’ notice of any strike action, it now seems unlikely there will be any further industrial action under the current strike ballot mandate so no further industrial action is expected in September or October.

Here is historical information and guidance of the impact of previous strike action:

  • All flights from London City and London Stansted airports will operate as normal
  • All flights from UK regional airports (apart from flights to London Heathrow) will operate as normal
  • Almost all flights from London Gatwick will operate as normal, with the exception of Gatwick – New York JFK
  • The majority of flights from London Heathrow will operate as normal
  • BA operated services between London Heathrow and Doha are cancelled with the option to rebook on Qatar Airways
  • Flights operated by codeshare partners, Oneworld alliance members and other airlines owned by BA’s parent company IAG (Aer Lingus, Iberia, Level and Vueling) are not affected
  • Flights operated by BA franchises Comair of South Africa and Sun-Air of Scandinavia are also not affected

Confirmed cancelled flights

Here are details of historical cancellations for the periods 1 – 16 July 19 – 25 July 26 July – 1 August 2 – 8 August  9 – 15 August  16 – 22 August and 23 – 31 August.

During the latest strikes almost all short-haul flights from London Heathrow operated, with some operated by Qatar Airways.  However, there have been some short-haul cancellations, particularly at weekends.

A small number of long-haul flights (typically 2 -3 return flights) are cancelled each day with London Heathrow – Doha (Flight numbers BA123 & BA122) bearing the brunt of cancellations.

More recently, BA has adopted an approach of targeting one flight and cancelling it over successive days.   Specific flights that have been subject to cancellation for many days include London Heathrow – Chicago (BA297 & BA296), London Gatwick – New York JFK  London Heathrow – Muscat as well as Dallas Fort Worth and Houston.

One return flight between London Heathrow and Madrid (BA458 & BA459) which is operated by a long-haul Boeing 777 was also cancelled regularly.

Common long-haul flights that were also cancelled include Abu Dhabi, Abuja, Jeddah, Las Vegas, Luanda, Newark, Philadelphia, Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

Longer range flights to Central & South America, South Africa, the Far East and Australia were not subject to cancellation.

Keeping up to date

The best advice is to check your booking using the Manage My Booking tool and ensure your e-mail and telephone contact details are up to date.

In addition, it is a good idea to download the BA app to your smartphone to receive notifications about your flight.

You can also check live flight information on the websites of Heathrow and BA.   The Heathrow website will show flight information for the next 48 hours.   The BA site will show flight information (by route or number, but not airport) for the next ten days.  Note that the BA website can be erratic and sometimes it will throw you back to the front page on first attempt.

Rebooking options

If your flight is cancelled you should have the option of a refund, rebooking to an alternative date, or an alternative route (within reason).  If you choose the later, any additional costs such as ground transportation will be at your expense.

Note if you have a transatlantic flight that is cancelled, with or without a connection onto an American Airlines domestic flight, it is worth exploring connections via other major North American gateways for BA and American Airlines such as New York JFK, Chicago, Dallas Fort Worth and Miami.

BA is not allowing any proactive rebooking to flights outside of the strike action and any changes or cancellations to existing bookings will be made in accordance with the fare rules at the time of booking.

When will I know if my flight is safe or cancelled?

Some cancellations (notably Doha) were cancelled well in advance, in excess of seven days. Other flights were cancelled at shorter notice. But you should have at least 24 hours’ notice.

How many cabin crew are taking part in industrial action?

It is understood that just over 10% of BA’s 15,000+ cabin crew have taken part in the industrial action this year.

How is BA maintaining its schedules during the industrial action?

Partly by leasing short-haul aircraft and crews from Qatar Airways, using management staff who are trained to work as cabin crew, rerostering cabin crew on fleets that are not taking part in industrial action, and operating some flights with reduced levels of crew.

Why is this dispute still ongoing?

This dispute started late last year and was originally concerned with pay.  Following industrial action early this year, BA withdrew staff travel benefits from those who participated in industrial action. These employees also lost their entitlement to certain performance related bonuses.

Whilst the pay issue has been settled in principle, the union is taking continued action due to the loss of benefits and bonuses.  BA’s view is that Unite should pursue action on this matter through the courts.  Unite’s view is that the dispute cannot be settled without all matters being resolved.

How long will this dispute last?

Given that both sides were standing firm it did look likely this dispute could continue into September.  However, it is understood that negotiations are now underway between BA and Unite.

Unite is required to give BA 14 days’ notice of any further strike action. As at Wednesday 30 August, it has not given notice of any industrial action beyond 30 August.  So there should be no industrial action until at least Friday 15 September.

Furthermore, under UK employment law members of Unite can legally take part in industrial action without risk of dismissal for a period of 12 weeks from the start of industrial action. Legally, BA can dismiss cabin crew who take part in the strike after 12 weeks.  However, it is highly unlikely that Unite would put its members at risk of dismissal.  So it will come to a head one way of or another by September.