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Travel disruption on cards as BA pilots hold first-ever strike

Tim Ockenden/PA Wire

By Alan Jones, PA Industrial Correspondent

The first-ever strike by British Airways pilots will cripple flights from Monday, causing travel disruption for tens of thousands of passengers.

Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) will walk out for 48 hours in a long-running dispute over pay, with a further strike set for September 27 if the row remains unresolved.

BA has told passengers that if they have a flight booked on Monday and Tuesday, it is likely they will not be able to travel as planned.

Customers have been offered refunds or the option to re-book to another date of travel or alternative airline.

BA operates up to 850 flights a day, with most expected to be cancelled, affecting up to 145,000 passengers.

The airline has said it was "ready and willing" to resume talks with the union, but there is little or no sign of the deadlock being broken.

Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: "British Airways needs to wake up and realise its pilots are determined to be heard.

"They've previously taken big pay cuts to help the company through hard times. Now BA is making billions of pounds of profit, its pilots have made a fair, reasonable and affordable claim for pay and benefits.

"Balpa has consistently offered up chances for the company to negotiate a way forward. British Airways must now put the needs of its staff and passengers first and accept that its pilots will not be bullied or fobbed off.

"The company's leaders, who themselves are paid huge salaries and have generous benefits packages, won't listen, are refusing to negotiate and are putting profits before the needs of passengers and staff.

"This strike will have cost the company considerably more than the investment needed to settle this dispute.

"It is time to get back to the negotiating table and put together a serious offer that will end this dispute."

Balpa said the strike will cost BA £40 million a day, claiming the dispute could be settled for £5 million.

A Balpa statement said: "BA's belligerent attitude is going to cost them, their shareholders and their passengers far more than resolving this dispute via negotiation would. It is precisely that attitude which has caused so much anger and frustration amongst BA's own staff members.

"Fundamentally BA pilots have lost trust and confidence in their management through relentless cost and corner-cutting.

"BA need to recognise that fact, resolve this dispute and work to regain the trust and confidence of their staff."

BA has offered an 11.5% pay rise over three years, which it says would take the pay of some captains to over £200,000.

The union says pilots took sacrifices in hard times to support their company and deserve a "small fraction" of BA's profits.

A BA spokesman said later: "Nearly half of Balpa members joined BA after the 2008 economic crash so they did not make any financial sacrifices.

"Since then, the aviation industry has become ever more globally competitive. We have had to make some difficult decisions to create the strong financial platform we now have, and which provides stability for our entire workforce, including pilots.

"Because of this we are now able to invest £6.5 billion over the next four years across BA, including 73 new aircraft bringing new opportunities for career progression for our pilots, as well as a secure future at BA."

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