[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Q&A: BA strike
BA passengers waiting at Heathrow
All affected passengers have now been booked onto flights
British Airways has resumed most flights out of Heathrow after four days of disruptions due to unofficial strike action by ground staff.

Some 70,000 passengers were prevented from travelling after hundreds of BA staff took unofficial action in support of 600 workers sacked by catering firm Gate Gourmet.

The BBC News website looks at the implications of the strike, the main parties involved, and plans to resolve the dispute.

Q: Are BA's Heathrow services now back to normal?

Almost.

About 200 travellers are still waiting for flights but BA hopes to clear the backlog by Tuesday.

BA says all scheduled shorthaul flights from the airport will operate as planned on Monday.

There will still be some disruption to longhaul flights over the next couple of days but more than 95% of flights will leave.

All customers stranded by the strike now have confirmed bookings on future flights.

Luggage left behind at the airport is being forwarded on to passengers on Monday.

However, flights leaving on Monday will still have a limited catering service.

Q: Is the dispute between Gate Gourmet and unions continuing?

Yes.

The two sides failed to find a solution to the dispute over the weekend but resumed talks on Monday.

At the heart of the dispute is catering firm Gate Gourmet's decision to sack 670 staff following an unofficial strike over the company's restructuring plans.

This led to a shortage of catering supplies on BA flights and hundreds of BA baggage handlers, ground staff and loaders - represented by the Transport and General Workers' Union - then went on unofficial strike in sympathy.

Gate Gourmet says it is losing money and needs to overhaul its business in order to survive.

Unions argue that the firm's management provoked the dispute.

According to the BBC's Stephen Cape, Gate Gourmet may be prepared to reinstate about half of the sacked workers but is not willing to re-employ those it considers to be "troublemakers".

The Transport & General Workers Union says this is unacceptable and wants the company to reinstate all the affected workers.

Q: Is a repeat of last week's strike likely?

BA workers have staged strike action in each of the past three summers, bringing chaos to Britain's busiest airport at a peak time of the year.

In 2004, staff voted to strike over pay before agreement was reached with BA managers while some workers stayed at home in protest at low staffing levels.

AFFECTED AIRLINE NUMBERS
British Airways:
0800 727 800
Qantas:
0870 000 0123
Sri Lankan Airlines:
0208 538 2000
Finnair:
0870 241 4411
GB Airways:
0870 850 9850
British Med Airlines:
0870 850 9850
(UK phone numbers)

A year earlier, ground staff walked out in protest over a new check-in timekeeping system.

The airline has denied that its industrial relations are strained, while unions have stated that there are no major grievances between workers and the company.

However, the shadow of this and other disputes will inevitably hang over BA for some time.

Some experts believe that increased outsourcing of services such as catering to third party suppliers has made airlines and other companies more vulnerable to disruption from strike action.

BA has urged the two sides to settle the dispute while admitting that the row is largely outside its control.

Q: What financial impact will the strike have on BA?

The strike has been very damaging to BA's reputation.

Analysts estimate the cost of cancelling hundreds of flights and finding hotel rooms for stranded passengers could total 40m.

However, some experts believe BA will withstand the fall-out because passengers numbers are healthier than for some time and it is enjoying a strong recovery in the lucrative business market.

"The market is almost getting used to this happening with BA," Euan Stirling, from Standard Life Investments, told the BBC.

"The business is fortunate in that the operating environment has been really positive in the last couple of years.

"This has mitigated any damage to the brand (of the strikes).

"If the consumer environment changes, the damage to the brand could become more obvious and that would naturally flow through to share price impact."




RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific