Thousands of British Airways customers across the world face another nightmare of flight cancelations and botched travelling plans as a new wave of industrial strike commences on Monday.
UNITE, the cabin crew Union through its leadership led by Tony Woodley had offered to ditch the strike if the airline had met request for travel concessions to be restored.
But the war of words between the two sides continued, with BA saying it was disappointed he had taken to negotiation via the media rather than through appropriate authorities especially Acas.
As talks were breaking down, BA said in a statement: ”We had agreed to a request from Acas to meet this afternoon and are surprised that Unite did not take advantage of this.
”We have already offered to reinstate travel concessions to cabin crew once all elements of our offer have been implemented.
”Of more concern to us is Tony Woodley’s comment to the media that he wants to revisit certain proposals in our offer, when previously he had indicated that these were agreed.
“This position reinforces our view that Bassa (the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association), at the centre of this dispute, is not serious in trying to come to a negotiated agreement with British Airways – and that Tony cannot control Bassa.
”We call on him to call off the strike action and return to the table with Acas to finish the discussions that started yesterday.”
The airline remained focused on flying as many passengers as possible throughout the stoppage despite a promise from the union’s joint leader, Tony Woodley, to call off Sunday’s walkout if BA reinstated travel concessions to its members, according to The Times.
BA in turn urged Unite to suspend the strike and return to the conciliation service, Acas, for talks.
Flights to the most popular destinations in Europe, including, Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam, and Scotland, have been cancelled as BA juggles resources to keep as many of the profitable long-haul routes as possible open. Nonetheless, New York, Phoenix, Baltimore, Dubai and other long-haul destinations are among those to be hit by the unrest.
BA’s most complex contingency plan ever began last week when it sent out tens of thousands of emails and text messages to passengers warning them of the unrest and asking if they wanted to rebook for dates after the expiry of the strike mandate on June 12, take a refund, or reroute on its emergency schedule.
The carrier said its contingency plan would allow it to fly 60,000 people a day this week – almost 30,000 less than it flew each day in May last year. Rival airlines say they have enjoyed a surge in bookings as passengers sought to avoid the stoppage.
BA has trained 1,000 volunteers as emergency cabin crew and said that non-unionised workers from its overseas recruiting centres would be called on to plug the gaps. It has also chartered eight aircraft and crew to serve European destinations. The smallest aircraft on its short-haul fleet were parked at the airline’s engineering base at Heathrow last night to make way for larger jets.
The airline’s chief executive, Willie Walsh, gave no immediate response to a personal request from Unite’s joint general secretary, Tony Woodley, for a last-minute deal.
“Willie, turn around and reinstate our people’s travel without the unnecessary vindictive removal of their service and this union will call off tonight’s strike and suspend the action to allow us to conclude the other issues that we were making good progress on yesterday before we were so rudely interrupted,” Mr Woodley said.