London —Business travellers and those vacationing are being left stranded at airports as British Airways confirmed it has had to cancel “nearly 100 percent of flights” as pilots launched a 48-hour strike in a dispute over pay, affecting as many as 195,000 travelers. Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) are taking their first industrial action against the airline, grounding hundreds of flights.
In a statement Monday, the airline said it had “no way of predicting how many (pilots) would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly.”
“After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this,” the airline announced Monday, blaming a lack of progress in its talks with the British Airline Pilots Association.
BA has offered a pay rise of 11.5% over three years but Balpa says its members wanted a bigger share of the company’s profits.
“Our members’ resolve is very strong and they remain very angry with BA, but they also want to leave no stone unturned in trying to find a resolution to their dispute.” https://t.co/eiSesDcpMp
— BALPA (@BALPApilots) September 5, 2019
According to the trade union’s website, the strikes were voted in favour by 93 percent of BALPA’s British Airways members. The pilots’ union has also put forward a new proposal in a letter to British Airways CEO Alex Cruz for further negotiations.The airline, part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), canceled 1,700 flights to and from London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Monday and Tuesday ahead of action by British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) members in BA’s first ever pilot strike.
“I am really sorry that the cynical actions of the pilots’ union have put us in his position,” BA Chief Executive Alex Cruz told BBC television.
“It is by all accounts an own goal; it’s going to punish customers, it’s going to punish our brand, it’s going to punish the rest of the colleagues.”
BALPA General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said: “Our members’ resolve is very strong and they remain very angry with British Airways, but they also want to leave no stone unturned in trying to find a resolution to their dispute.
“Avoiding strike action and agreeing a deal with their pilots surely must be the desired outcome for British Airways. We urge them to join us to discuss the new proposal – which shows pilots are willing to be flexible but still stand united in getting a better deal.”
— British Airways (@British_Airways) September 9, 2019
“We remain ready and willing to return to talks with Balpa.”
“Unfortunately, with no detail from Balpa on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100% of our flights.”
“This strike will have cost the company considerably more than the investment needed to settle this dispute.
“It is time to get back to the negotiating table and put together a serious offer that will end this dispute.”
Balpa said the strike will cost BA £40 million ($49.2 million) a day, claiming the dispute could be settled for £5 million ($6.15 million).BA said its offer would take the pay of some captains to more than £200,000 (nearly $246,000).
Heathrow airport will be worst affected as it is the busiest hub for BA.British Airways has confirmed that all affected customers will receive full refunds or the option to re-book their flights to another date of travel or alternative airlines. It also says that flights on BA CityFlyer, SUN-AIR and Comair are not affected by the strike.