Page last updated at 18:51 GMT, Monday, 22 March 2010

BA strike will cost airline 7m a day, it says

Unite: 'There are no winners in this dispute'

British Airways has estimated the current three-day strike by its cabin crew will cost £7m a day.

But the airline said the industrial action was unlikely to have much impact on its full-year earnings figure.

According to the company's website, around a third of flights to and from the UK's main airports on Monday have so far been cancelled.

Tony Woodley, joint leader of the Unite union, said: "I would like to hear BA's board justify spending millions."

He questioned why BA was funding what he called "a floundering strike-breaking operation", pointing out that his members had offered the company their own cost-saving plan of more than £55m.

BA's main hub at Heathrow suffered the biggest disruption on Monday, with 201 of the 443 flights before 1700 GMT marked as cancelled on BA's online schedules.

BA FLIGHTS CANCELLED BY 1700GMT
Cancellations in flights due to take off or land before 1700GMT (Total flights scheduled in brackets)
Heathrow: 201 (443)
Gatwick: 19 (95)
London City: 2 (41)
Manchester: 15 (42)
Glasgow: 10 (40)
Edinburgh: 9 (33)
Aberdeen: 6 (23)
Newcastle: 3 (7)
Birmingham: No cancellations
Belfast International: No cancellations
Inverness: No cancellations
Source: BA website

At Gatwick, BA's contingency plans, which include using pilots as cabin crew and leasing ready-crewed aircraft, meant four out of five flights before 1700 GMT went ahead.

For Glasgow, the figure was 10 cancellations out of 40 flights, while at Manchester there were 15 cancellations out of 42 in total on BA's online schedule.

Over the weekend, the total level of disruption was higher, according to a BA statement, when 42% of flights were cancelled on Saturday and Sunday.

Speaking to striking cabin crew at a rally near Heathrow, Unite's joint leader Tony Woodley said the union was still willing to negotiate and urged BA to "come back" to the negotiating table.

Mr Woodley confirmed that he had been talking to Gordon Brown about the strike and was grateful for his attempts to encourage the two sides to reach a negotiated settlement.

According to his spokesperson, the Prime Minister was keeping "very closely in touch" with the situation and was very conscious of the impact the dispute was having on passengers.

Ongoing impact

In a statement issued to the stock exchange about its operations over the weekend, the airline said that over the first two days of the strike, it operated 78% of its long-haul flights and 50% of short-haul.

AT THE SCENE
Louisa Baldini
By Louisa Baldini, BBC News, near Heathrow
Red and white Unite banners and flags are peppered across the car park of a little football club on the outskirts of Heathrow, where strikers have been gathering for three days.

"Willie liar, pants on fire" they chant, referring to the airline's chief executive Mr Walsh. The crowd of between two and three hundred have been more vocal today than over the weekend, boosted by a visit and rousing talk from one of their union's leaders, Tony Woodley. "After three days of being here, we needed that boost", one of the strikers tells me. "There is a real feeling of solidarity."

As for the possibility of a settlement, most strikers I speak to believe the only hope is if negotiations by-pass Willie Walsh. Otherwise they are resigned to returning to the picket lines on Saturday. "We'd rather not, we'd rather be at work, but if we have to, we will."

It said it had operated another 70 "positioning" flights, in most cases carrying cargo, which the airline said had returned passengers home "with minimum disruption".

The next round of industrial action will begin on 27 March, bringing with it more disruption if a resolution cannot be reached before then.

In the meantime, BA said the current three-day stoppage would continue to affect its operations this week after cabin crew return to work.

"We are sorry for any cancellations, as we get our aircraft, pilots and cabin crew back into the correct positions around the world," the airline said in a statement.

"We are contacting customers and offering them a full refund, a rebook or a re-route so that they can get to their destinations."

But it said the "vast majority" of passengers would be unaffected.

"The knock-on impact at Heathrow is far less than anticipated due to the numbers of cabin crew who came to work as normal over the past weekend."

The Unite union argues that the actual number who turned up for work is much lower than BA claims.

Cuts and losses

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The strike action is the latest episode in a long-running dispute over changes to pay and conditions by BA that Unite claims are being unfairly imposed on its members.

Workers are particularly angry that last November BA reduced the number of crew on long-haul flights and is introducing a two-year pay freeze from 2010.

The airline also proposed new contracts with lower pay for fresh recruits.

BA suffered a loss before tax of £342m for the nine months to the end of December 2009 and says it needs to cut costs in order to survive.



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Mail Online UK British Airways strips striking cabin crew of travel perks - 44 mins ago
The Independent Strike-hit BA announce expanded flight schedule - 3 hrs ago
ITN BA will expand schedule for second wave of strikes - 17 hrs ago
Observer BA flights disrupted despite end of three-day strike - 18 hrs ago
New StatesmanBA cancellations continue - 19 hrs ago
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