British Airways’ cabin crew union, Unite, is planning to strike from December 22 through January 2 in response to massive cuts enacted last month. The strike was approved by over 92 percent of the union, and would cost British Airways upwards of $32 million per day.
The carrier, which has posted heavy losses this year, had planned to shed jobs, restructure contracts, and freeze pay. The union says it is open to further negotiations, but intends to carry on with the strike unless British Airways reverses the changes already implemented. At this point, it seems likely the strike will go through.
In the meantime, travelers booked with British Airways during the holidays need to prepare for the worst. On its website, British Airways says it will waive change fees for ticketed passengers during the strike period. Customers whose flights are cancelled due to the strike can either receive a full refund, rebook their flight, or reroute their itinerary. The airline is currently reviewing its schedule for the proposed strike period, and plans to announce any changes soon. It’s likely the carrier will try to maintain as many long-haul routes as possible during the strike. It does not seem likely that British Airways would rebook passengers on other airlines.
So, if you are planning on traveling with British Airways during the strike period, I’d suggest monitoring your itinerary to see if it’s cancelled, and start considering alternatives. If you booked through a travel agent, contact him or her directly.
**UPDATE December 15** British Airways said it is commencing legal action against Unite. The airline claims the strike ballot was invalid due to unspecified “irregularities,” therefore making the strike invalid as well, if not illegal.
British Airways CEO Willie Walsh is also out with some strong words for Unite, saying, “A strike is senseless – and we urge Unite to draw back. We will not be reversing our changes to onboard crew numbers.
“They have no justification for threatening such extreme action. It is very sad that they are seeking to use the Christmas holiday plans and family reunions of hundreds of thousands of people to try to pursue their case.”
Walsh also notes that British Airways’ cabin crew employees are already the “best rewarded” in the U.K.