BA warns of more disruption as strike drags on
Published 22/03/2010 | 05:00
BRITISH Airways gave warning of further delays and cancellations this week as the cabin crew strike that has cost the airline tens of millions of pounds dragged into its third day.
BA will announce tomorrow a revised schedule for next weekend, when four further strike dates are due to begin. It acknowledged that some disruption was inevitable this week even on non-strike days as aircraft and crew remain outside their normal locations. Scores of aircraft, including most of the airline's short-haul fleet, are parked at BA's engineering base at Heathrow.
The company has cancelled more than 1,000 of its 1,950 scheduled flights over the past three days. It insists, however, that more than 60pc of passengers will be able to fly today. It denied a claim by the Unite union that only nine flights had left Heathrow with passengers on board by mid-afternoon yesterday and that 49 long-haul flights took off without a single fare-paying passenger.
The airline's hub, Terminal 5 at Heathrow, will remain subdued as BA tries to fly 49,000 passengers compared with the 75,000 passengers it carries on a typical March day. Many have found seats on rival airlines.
There were times yesterday when travellers in the departures hall seemed to be outnumbered by check-in staff, security guards and additional personnel drafted in to help passengers. Having alerted customers by email, text message and online, BA avoided chaotic scenes seen at previous times of acute disruption.
Some transfer passengers were angry that their flights had been delayed but many BA flights were arriving early because of the reduced schedule in what is normally highly congested airspace.
Picket lines at four locations around the airport were far more animated, with shouting when coaches with blacked-out windows passed with strike-breaking crews on board. While they flew the red flag of Unite, the pickets were more Middle England than Militant Tendency.
"We are not militant people, we just feel that we are professional workers trying to earn a good standard of living. It is a very sad day that we have to do this," said one striking stewardess with 18 years of service at BA.
Protesters were united in a visceral hatred of BA chief executive Willie Walsh, whose cost-cutting drive is the immediate cause of the dispute. Tony Woodley, the joint head of Unite, attacked Mr Walsh's "macho" management style.
He added: "I am now appealing to the BA chairman and sensible members of the board to use their influence, put passengers first, and return to the negotiating table for the good of everyone." (© The Times, London)