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British Airways cabin crew just announced a further two weeks of strikes, an extension of the four-week strike going on right now.
The current strike period ends on August 15th, and the new strike by mixed fleet cabin crew — who are paid less than other BA cabin crew — will begin on August 16th at midnight, lasting until August 30th. That period includes the UK’s August bank holiday, among the busiest travel weekends of the year.
Thursday is the 58th strike day by mixed fleet cabin crew. Trade union Unite said in a statement that “unless a deal can be hammered out, it will mean the cabin crew will have been on strike for the whole of July and August forcing British Airways to spend millions on ‘wet leasing’ aircraft to cover the striking cabin crew.” According to Unite, the new strike is due to a “half-hearted offer by British Airways to reinstate travel concessions for workers who took strike action.”
As the strikes have been going on for over two months now, BA has implemented a strategy to minimize disruption by wet-leasing 9 Qatar Airways aircraft. The Qatari aircraft are flying across British Airways’ European network, and operated by Qatar Airways flight crew and cabin crew. These flights are unique, because a Gulf carrier has never flown for a UK airline in this type of arrangement before. I flew a British Airways flight operated by Qatar Airways last month, and found it to be the best BA flight I’ve ever been on.
When British Airways applied to the UK Civil Aviation Authority for permission to wet-lease the nine Qatari A320s, it asked, and got, the use of the aircraft for up to two months. Here’s the official application document:
This means that despite the original expectation that the Qatar jets would fly for BA for just two weeks in July, they could now continue to serve until the end of August.
In terms of cancelled flights, the strikes mean a selection of flights are cancelled each day, and the airline will notify passengers about the affected flights via the contact details provided during booking. That means you should ensure your contact details are up-to-date in your British Airways bookings.
Only some short-haul flights are on the wet-leased Qatar Airways aircraft, and as these jets are Airbus A320s it means that all mid-haul and long-haul flights not cancelled because of the strike will continued to be operated by British Airways.
Frustrations among the 1,400 striking mixed-fleet cabin crew are high, and with International Airlines Group (IAG), the parent company of British Airways, recently announcing that its operating profit has climbed by 37 percent to €975m in the past six months, mixed fleet cabin crew TPG spoke with at Heathrow last week said they find it even more unacceptable that they are still on “poverty pay”. A mixed-fleet cabin crew member can expect to earn on average 23,000 pounds (about $30,000), according to British Airways.
For passengers, it’s essential to have your correct contact details in British Airways bookings, so the airline can let you know of any disruption. The bright side is the extension of the use of Qatar Airways, aircraft which as I noted in my flight review are a huge upgrade from BA’s current short-haul services, and even feature the return of complimentary food and drink in Economy. Business Class passengers will be pleased too, as Qatar’s A320s have a real, separate Business class cabin rather than just an empty middle Economy seat.
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