On Monday, British Airways (BA) faced its first global strike by pilots and the possibility of almost all its flights being grounded for two days. The UK flag carrier and its 4,300 pilots have been locked in a nine-month pay dispute that could disrupt the travel plans of nearly 300,000 people.
On Friday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged both sides, “to get round the table and sort this out”. But BA raised the stakes by reportedly threatening to strip pilots and their families of free travel perks if the strike action goes ahead.
“We make no apology for doing everything we can to protect our customers from further disruption,” a BA spokesperson told the Financial Times on Friday. The proposed 11.5 percent pay increase in July over three years has been rejected by the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA).
It has been stated by the BA that the offer would see flight captains receive “world-class” pay and benefits of around £200,000 ($246,000 or 220,000 euros) a year. It also points out that two other unions representing 90 percent of the airlines’ workers have accepted the 11.5-percent raise.
BALPA counters saying that the co-pilots’ salaries average around £70,000 and the salary of the junior one is just £26,000. On Sunday BALPA tweeted, “One day of strike action will cost BA, on their own figures, £40 million.”
“The difference between us now is £5 million. Why won’t they work with us to end this dispute?” it asked. The authority claimed that BA never replied to a counteroffer it made to the airline on Wednesday.
The pilots have threated to strike for one more day on September 27 and then likely again closer to the winter holidays should the dispute increase. In a statement, BA said to the customers on Sunday, “We don’t underestimate the inconvenience caused, for which we are deeply sorry.”
BA is planning to dismiss 850 flights on Monday. The Financial Times said the airline normally operates 1,700 flights over a 48-hour span. Brian Strutton, the general secretary of BALPA said the company had adopted a “cost-cutting culture (that) has in the eyes of pilots not only dumbed down a great brand but also made it harder for them to do their jobs”.