British Airways flights grounded in 48-hour strike by pilots

Action marks first-ever strike by pilots, who have argued for bigger share of airline's profits.

    The airline has come under fire for how it communicated with passengers regarding the strikes, including telling travelers their flights had been cancelled [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]
    The airline has come under fire for how it communicated with passengers regarding the strikes, including telling travelers their flights had been cancelled [File: Hannah McKay/Reuters]

    British Airways pilots have begun a 48-hour strike on Monday, grounding most of the airline's flights and disrupting thousands of travellers' plans in unprecedented industrial action over a pay dispute.

    The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) last month gave the airline notice of three days of industrial action in September, in what is the first-ever strike by BA pilots.

    Following the strikes on September 9 and 10, another day of industrial action is scheduled for September 27.

    BALPA has said that British Airways (BA) should share more of its profits with its pilots. BA has said the strike action is unjustifiable as its pay offer was fair.

    Thousands of customers have had to seek alternative travel arrangements, and the airline has been criticised for how it handled communications with passengers ahead of the strikes.

    "This strike will have cost the company considerably more than the investment needed to settle this dispute," BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said in a statement on the eve of the strike.

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

    Last Thursday, the airline dismissed a new offer by BALPA as an "eleventh hour inflated proposal" that was not made in good faith. BALPA had said it would have called off the strikes this week if BA had engaged with the offer.

    A spokeswoman for United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson has urged both sides to end the dispute.

    Asked about the strike action, a spokeswoman for British Airways said: "We remain ready and willing to return to talks with BALPA."

    The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) is investigating the airline after it enraged some travellers by wrongly telling them their flights had been cancelled.

    The regulator also reminded the airline to proactively tell customers of their rights. During the strikes, BA must offer the passengers reimbursement for cancelled flights, alternate travel arrangements under comparable conditions or a new flight at a later date.

    Anil Padhra, head of Aviation studies at the University of West London, told Al Jazeera that the impact of the strike was likely to be significant on BA's profits.

    "Financially, I think many industry estimates are somewhere in the region of about 14 million pounds for each day that the strike goes on," he said.

    SOURCE: Reuters news agency