British Airways' pilots just voted to strike, which could mean major disruptions for travel

Business Insider US
  • British Airways' pilots' union has voted to go on strike, and the airline lost a legal challenge to try and block it.
  • The pilots are arguing for a higher raise than the airline offered because the airline has been reporting strong profits.
  • The union must give at least two weeks' notice before any strike, but at the height of the peak holiday travel season in the northern hemisphere, major disruptions would be widespread on routes throughout the world.
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British Airways' pilots' union voted overwhelmingly to strike in a ballot that closed earlier this week, setting the stage for potential mass disruptions to holiday travel throughout Europe and beyond.

The pilots' union, British Airlines Pilots' Association (BALPA), saw 90% of its 4,000 members turn out for the vote, and 93% of them voted to authorize a strike.

The vote came amid a dispute between the airline and pilots over a pay raise. The airline has recorded high profits in recent quarters and issued large dividends to shareholders, and the pilots' union has sought an above-inflation pay raise that would include a profit-sharing benefit. According to The Guardian, the pilots argue that they accepted pay cuts when the airline faced a difficult market during the financial crisis, and that they should be able to share in the good periods as well.

The airline said it offered a 11.5% raise over three years, which the union rejected.

In a statement, BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton expressed frustration and resolve.

"We do not wish to inconvenience our customers which is why we have tried to resolve this matter through negotiation starting last November," he said, adding that "it is BA who has regrettably chosen to drag this out into the summer months."

The airline sought a court injunction to prevent the strike, arguing that the strike ballot was invalid; however, the court ruled in BALPA's favour.

The union must issue at least two weeks' notice before striking, and no dates have been announced yet.

The airline carries up to 145,000 passengers a day, according to The Guardian, who may face major disruptions. In addition to passengers traveling to or from Europe, the airline offers one-stop travel between North and South America, India, the Middle East, and parts of Africa.

During the peak summer travel season, the strike could mean major disruptions, particularly as other airlines may not have much spare capacity to facilitate rebookings, according to Airways magazine.

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