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BRITISH AIRWAYS flights were crippled today as pilots launched a 48-hour strike over pay.
Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) are taking their first-ever industrial action against the airline, grounding hundreds of flights.
BA has offered a pay rise of 11.5 per cent over three years but Balpa says its members wanted a bigger share of the company’s profits.
The airline has spent weeks offering refunds to passengers or the option to rebook to another date of travel or an alternative airline.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “British Airways needs to wake up and realise its pilots are determined to be heard. They’ve previously taken big pay cuts to help the company through hard times.
“Now BA is making billions of pounds of profit, its pilots have made a fair, reasonable and affordable claim for pay and benefits.
“Balpa has consistently offered up chances for the company to negotiate a way forward. British Airways must now put the needs of its staff and passengers first and accept that its pilots will not be bullied or fobbed off.
“The company’s leaders, who themselves are paid huge salaries and have generous benefits packages, won’t listen, are refusing to negotiate and are putting profits before the needs of passengers and staff.
“This strike will have cost the company considerably more than the investment needed to settle this dispute. It is time to get back to the negotiating table and put together a serious offer that will end this dispute.”
BA operates up to 850 flights a day. Most are expected to be cancelled, affecting up to 145,000 passengers. London Heathrow, BA’s busiest hub, will be worst hit.
Both sides have said they want to resume talks, but there is little sign of the deadlock being broken.
BA boss Alex Cruz apologised to passengers for the disruption and insisted the airline had worked tirelessly to contact everyone affected by the strike to offer alternative arrangements.
A statement from BA said: “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 per cent of our flights.”
The airline insisted it remains “ready and willing” to return to talks with Balpa.
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