BA Strike, Ash Ensure Bad Day for UK Airlines

British Airways’ cabin crew is set to strike starting tonight. The BA strikes, associated with the cabin crew’s union, will last five days. The crews plan to institute four separate five-day strikes unless the airline and the union come to an agreement. The BBC has more:

The first strike is due to begin on 18 May, ending on 22 May, with the three further strikes beginning on 24 May, 30 May and 5 June.

At Heathrow, its most important hub, BA has said it intends to operate more than 60% of long-haul flights and more than 50% of short-haul flights in the first strike period. For the later strike dates, BA plans to operate a “substantial” part of its long-haul schedule and says there will be “a number of flights to every destination across our short-haul network”. The airline will give further details nearer the time.

In November, BA reduced the number of cabin crew on long haul flights from 15 to 14 and introduced a two-year pay freeze from 2010. The airline also proposed new contracts for fresh recruits and newly-promoted staff. These included a single on-board management grade, no seniority, promotion on merit, and pay set at market rate plus 10%.

This would still see new recruits paid significantly less than current staff. Unite now says it has reached an agreement in principle with the airline on these changes, but the stumbling blocks are now travel concessions and disciplinary action.

When cabin crew last went on strike in March, the airline said that staff who took part in the strike would lose their travel perks permanently, including no longer getting the right to buy heavily discounted tickets. The union is fighting for the restoration of these perks and has also condemned the airline for disciplinary action being taken against more than 50 union members.

BA made the changes after heavy losses forced it to restructure. The airline needs to restructure its pricing to compete with budget carriers, to whom it lost many business passengers, according to the BBC.

Meanwhile, volcanic ash has caused the closure of major airports in England, grounding hundreds of flights.

It’s a bad day for aviation in the UK.