Members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) are involved in an acrimonious pay dispute with BA. In July they voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action.
After some tentative but unproductive talks, the pilots’ union called strikes for 9, 10 and 27 September. The initial 48-hour walkout caused the cancellation of almost all BA flights on 9 and 10 September, with additional disruption on days either side.
In all, 1,700 flights were grounded; nearly 200,000 passengers had their travel plans disrupted; and British Airways lost up to £100m in lost revenue and additional costs.
Fifteen days ahead of the next planned strike, the airline sent out notifications to almost all passengers booked on 27 September – and those on affected departures on adjacent days – that their flights had been cancelled.
The timing was significant because European Union carriers have to pay compensation if they cancel flights with less than two weeks’ advance notice.
Many passengers have accepted alternatives: a refund, rebooking on a future BA flight or an alternative departure on a limited range of other airlines.
But with eight days to go, Balpa made the surprise move of calling off the strike.
The airline took 30 hours to resurrect some of its flight schedule. British Airways has reinstated about half the planned flights.
Passengers who cancelled for a full refund who now wish to travel are entitled to rebook at the same price that they originally paid.
If BA moved them to an alternative flight, whether on British Airways or another carrier, they can revert to the original departure.
But if they took a refund, then booked independently on, say, easyJet or Virgin Atlantic, they will not be able to switch back without losing cash.
A spokesperson for BA said: “We are offering all customers whose flights were cancelled due to next week's planned industrial action, the option to rebook on to a British Airways flight, with a schedule of services to our daily destinations on September 26, 27 and 28 September.”
Balpa says that if “meaningful talks” do not take place with the airline, further strikes may be called. Its mandate on industrial action lasts until January 2020.