"I think it is a classic case of Mr Walsh unfortunately being one of the hawks who is looking for a war with our members as opposed to a negotiated settlement," he said, referring to Willie Walsh, the BA chief executive.

'Deeply regrettable'

Walsh said that the company had put forward a new offer to at face-to-face talks called in an attempt to prevent disruption to the travel plans of thousands of people.

"It's deeply regrettable that a proposal that we have tabled to Unite that I believe is fair... has not been accepted," he said outside the London venue of the talks.

"BA will be flying tomorrow and will continue to fly throughout these periods of industrial action"

Willie Walsh,
BA chief executive

However, he has also admitted that it was lower than previous offers as a result of the costs the airline has incurred due to the planned industrial action.

The union had said cabin crew would call off the strike if the airline reinstated an offer that was withdrawn last week.

BA hopes to fly at least 60 per cent of customers booked for the March 20-22 period, having retrained staff to provide cover.

"BA will be flying tomorrow and will continue to fly throughout these periods of industrial action," Walsh said.

The airline wants to save more than $90 million annually through a series of cuts to pay and staffing to help cope with a fall in demand, volatile fuel prices and increased competition from low-cost carriers.

The industrial action could be a major embarrassment to Gordon Brown, the prime minister, with parliamentary elections expected within months, as his ruling Labour party is supported by the Unite union.

Lord Andrew Adonis, the British transport secretary, said that the breakdown of the talks was "disappointing".

"This strike is in no-one's interests and will cause major inconvenience to passengers," he said. "I continue to urge both sides to find a negotiated settlement."