After failing to achieve an agreement with British Airways, the Unite union launched its promised five-day cabin crew strike, expected to cost the airline upward of $14.4 million with the cancellation of many flights.
British Airways CEO Willie Walsh turned down an offer from joint general secretary of the United Kingdom’s largest union Unite, Tony Woodley that could have prevented the strike, resulting in grounded cabin crews.
The apple of discord lies in disputes over salaries, and work conditions and benefits. One key sticking point is the issue of BA suspending the rights of crew members to use plane ticket concessions to commute to work.
Woodley told the press on Sunday, that if BA restored the perk, then Unite would sit back down at the negotiating table to work on the other issues that the two sides were reportedly making progress on. The airline counterclaimed the cabin crew would be given back their perks once an agreement was fully accepted.
During the strike, the U.K. airline has made contingency plans to lease aircraft with pilots from other European carriers in order to minimize disruptions to travelers.
The conflict also involves BA pilots. Some union members were claiming that the deal between the Unite and BA could not be reached because the airline's pilots object to travel perks being restored to cabin crew.
“It is nonsense to claim that pilots are doing anything to prevent a settlement. Indeed, to avoid making a bad situation worse, we have stayed neutral throughout this dispute despite the huge damage to the company's reputation and the very real risk that it poses for the future of all employees,” Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) said in a press statement.
“The accusation is untrue and has been confirmed as such by Willie Walsh,” he added.
According to McAuslan, the report's aim “shift[s] the blame for the lack of resolution to this dispute onto pilots' shoulders and away from where it should be.”
During the strike, scheduled to run through to May 29, many flights from Heathrow Airport will be canceled, but Gatwick and London City Airport will remain unaffected. On the first day of the strike, BA said that it operated 60 percent of long-haul flights and 50 percent of its short-haul flights from Heathrow.
Unite has announced two additional five-day strikes to take place starting May 30 and June 5, should there be no settlement to the dispute.
BA said it will confirm on Wednesday its schedule for flights to and from London Heathrow between 30 May and 4 June. Their website can be consulted for updates.