With no sign of any negotiations to be resumed any time soon, the second round cabin-crew strike at British Airways went as planned on Saturday. The walkout has caused further disruption and frustration among passengers. British Airways has been taking a hard line against the strikes and the Unite union is giving no indication of backing down either. But it is passengers who are caught in the middle, said some travel advocates. The Air Transport Users Council in Britain described passengers in these situation as “being pawns in other people’s disputes.” Both the airline and the union know that travelers are powerless, further indicated the chief executive of the traveler advocacy group.
Midway through the four-day walkout, the company said it was managing to cope better with the disruption this round of strike than it did during the three-day stoppage a week ago, with sufficient cabin crew reporting for duty for it to operate a majority of services. The airline said it flew 120,000 passengers during the weekend compared with 86,000 the previous weekend. It also claimed that 63 percent of crew members reported to work Saturday, up from 56 percent the previous Saturday.
At London Gatwick and London City airports, the company was flying a full schedule. The number of flights from Heathrow also increased from the previous weekend, with 70% of long-haul services running, up from 60%, and 55% of short-haul flights running, up from 30%. Still most service to the U.S. was out. The promised goal for the company is to fly three quarters of its booked passengers with contingent plans.
With BA continuing to operate on its own, the deepening confrontation with Unite is spreading beyond the British Isles. The union has gained verbal support from its counterparts in the United States and on mainland Europe and work stoppage may spread to other airlines, the Associated Press reported. In reality, other airlines do face the same labor costs issues, having been hurt by declining air travel and falling revenue amid an uncertain economic outlook, and may just have to take a hard line on labor costs. Only fuel eats up more of their revenue, said a local airline analyst.
Separately on Wednesday, British Airways revoked the travel perks from striking crew members, a free and heavily discounted air travel not only for employees but also their family. The company’s action enraged the union leaders, further adding fuel to the already hotly contested disputes. The union has threatened a third round of strike after Easter if no progress is made on talks, with crews likely to walk out again on April 14.