LONDON – Pilots working for British Airways have this week begun its two-day strike action of pay and working conditions.

It is understood that up to 1,700 flights are to be cancelled due to this strike action.

The pilots union in charge of this, the British Airlines Pilots Association (BALPA), have condemned the airline’s approach of cost-cutting and dumbing down of the brand as an erosion in the consumer confidence of the airline.

The General Secretary of BALPA, Brian Strutton has commented on this action, saying that both sides need to come to the table and end this.

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

Photo: Clément Alloing

“BA has lost the trust and confidence of pilots because of cost-cutting and the dumbing down of the brand… management want to squeeze every last penny out of customers and staff,” Mr Strutton said.

Strutton mentioned to UK media outlet, the BBC, that although British Airways have said it is willing to talk, “in private they say they are not going to negotiate”, which is showing two sides to the story.

He also argued that the airline should be agreeing to these pay rises, given the £3.5 billion in profits recorded in 2018.

However, British Airways CEO Alex Cruz said that the airline is “reading and willing” to return to talk.

This could end up becoming a change intact on the private front, with this strike costing BA around £40m per day, with some 4,000 pilots involved in the strike itself.

In a statement, the airline also apologised to customers regarding this action.

“We understand the frustration and disruption of Balpa’s strike action have caused our customers. After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this.

“Unfortunately, with no detail from Balpa on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100% of our flights.”

Another strike is scheduled for September 27, near to the end of this month.

Why are pilots striking?

This strike action is over pay and working conditions, with pilots previously rejecting an increase representing 11.5% over three years, which was proposed in July.

BALPA has said that members in the union took lower pay rises and made sacrifices in order to give the airline more leeway to save costs.

It now argues that the time of financial difficulty has passed and that a greater share of the profits should be handed out to the pilots.

BA in the past has come out and said that its pilots already take home “world-class” salaries and that the pay on offer is “fair and generous”.

As an example, the airline stated that if the 11.5% pay deal was put into effect, BA captains could be taking home in excess of £200,000 per year with allowances included.

This, however, did not take into account First Officers or those undergoing training at the airline.

A Quiet Airspace…

With not many British Airways flights taking off at all, it has a very eerie feel at London Heathrow.

As seen in the screenshot, this is representing Heathrow and the areas surrounding it up to the east coast of the country.

At 1520 UK time, it definitely shows how quiet the airport is without the presence of British Airways.

All we can see is other UK carriers and other European and international airlines flying into London.

In Heathrow’s terminal five, only ten departures are scheduled for the day, with hardly any BA flights on that list at all.

Other travellers show how quiet the terminal actually is, with some calling it an “absolute pleasure to breeze through the airport”, which is definitely not like Heathrow at all, many think.

It is very safe to say that Heathrow has turned into a ghost town, and is definitely reflective of how important operations for British Airways are over there.

In-all, all eyes will now be on British Airways to come together with the unions and agree on a deal that can make the airline happy but more importantly, the pilots happy as well. How long this will go on for is a matter of time. All we can do now is watch.