Page last updated at 07:53 GMT, Sunday, 28 March 2010 08:53 UK

BA strike: Second walk-out causes more disruption

BA planes grounded at Heathrow
BA has had to ground a number of its aircraft at Heathrow airport

British Airways has cancelled almost a hundred flights from Heathrow during the first day of a second weekend of strike action by cabin crew.

But BA hopes to fly three-quarters of its passengers through the four-day strike, which began on Saturday.

In an online message, boss Willie Walsh said BA was doing "everything possible" to achieve that and was "absolutely committed to resolving this dispute".

The Unite union has warned industrial action could continue after Easter.

BA and Unite are in dispute over the airline's cost-cutting plans, which include reducing the numbers of cabin crew on long-haul flights.

ANALYSIS
Joe Lynam
Joe Lynam, BBC business correspondent


Unite and its striking members will feel vindicated today when they read a leaked report in today's papers which suggested that an outside adviser to the airline had urged BA management last year to "hit the union where it hurts".

While the company flatly rejected that that is its policy, the article - alongside Friday's letter from 116 academics, which accused BA of adopting "macho policies" - appears to chime with union concerns that it is in a battle for survival with a belligerent and motivated employer.

Nonetheless the airline's tail - or tailfin - is up as it increases the number of planes flying from Heathrow compared to last weekend's strike, as well as reducing to 7% the total number of its customers which could not be accommodated either by it or rival airlines.

The vast majority of cancellations were at Heathrow.

Mr Walsh, in a video message posted on the BA website on Saturday evening, said he had spoken to customers at the airport's Terminal 5.

"There were a lot of people around but you would expect that given that our schedule today is significantly more than we had planned last weekend."

He said there had been "a good atmosphere over there - customers are still very happy, very pleased to be getting away, getting to their destinations".

"At the same time, I am deeply sorry to those customers who have had their holidays and their plans disrupted."

He said Gatwick was "operating as normal" while BA said its flights from London City airport had also been unaffected.

There have been a handful of cancellations at Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow airports.

BBC correspondent Richard Slee said that, at Heathrow, about a quarter of BA departures had been cancelled up until late afternoon.

This compared with about half on Saturday evening.

In total, the airline expects to cancel 93 out of approximately 270 departures from Heathrow on Saturday.

'Biggest contingency'

Unite, meanwhile, has said that, with no sign of agreement over changes to pay and conditions, further strike action after Easter is likely.

The union said six planes leaving from Heathrow were loaded with passengers then unloaded because no cabin crews were available, but BA denied the claim.

Passenger Jill Kelly: 'It's costing at least 1000 extra'

Unite also claimed BA had handed the operation of some European flights over to eight other operators.

A spokesman for the airline said it had been "operating up to 55% of short-haul flights, up from 30% last strike period".

"The lion's share" of the flights had been on BA aircraft with fewer other aircraft leased than during last weekend's action, he added.

BA said it had deployed "the biggest contingency plan in our history" to try to limit the impact of the strikes.

Despite those measures, it estimates that last week's three-day stoppage cost the company £21m.

But Unite national officer Brian Boyd told the BBC some City analysts had estimated the seven days of action would cost BA about £105m.

Meanwhile, BA has said that travel perks withdrawn from striking staff will never be reinstated. BA staff are able to buy flights for 10% of the face value - a deal that can be extended to friends and family.

Steve Turner, Unite: "There will be no settlement without staff travel concessions having been returned"

Unite called the withdrawal of the perks "unacceptable anti-union bullying".

Unite's Steve Turner said the union was "absolutely crystal clear" there would be no settlement without staff travel concessions being returned.

The union is seeking legal advice over the issue.

A BA spokesman said: "We are absolutely in compliance with the legislation.

"Where a crew member has called in sick, they will have the opportunity to meet with their manager to explain the reasons.

"The manager has the discretion to reinstate pay and staff travel."

Analysts say BA needs to bring down its costs significantly.

It is expected to announce the biggest loss in its privatised history when it reports its annual results later this year.

Last year it lost more than £400m.



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