The almost year-long tussle between global airline operator British Airways and its pilots (4000 of whom are part of the British Airline Pilots’ Association) may be drawing to a temporary close, as BA agrees to some of the conditions and clauses laid down by BALPA.
The move, which comes as a refreshing change from the blame game that’s been going on for months, stems from BA’s desire to avoid any strikes or walkouts during the holiday season.
With BA already receiving flak for its string of technical glitch-induced delays and cancellations, a pilot’s strike is the last thing the airline needs this Christmas.
Industrial action puts a wedge in airline operations
Early this year, talks between BA and BALPA over pilots’ pay broke down and resulted in industrial action from the airline’s team of pilots and cabin crew. In early September, BA staff went on a two-day strike in protest of their poor work conditions and even poorer pay.
A second walkout scheduled for late September was called-off at the last minute, but only after BALPA members threatened BA with more industrial action if a deal wasn’t struck soon.
In an interview, BA spokespersons confirmed that the two-day strike led to a loss of €137 million for the company and a reduction in annual profits by 6%. An estimated 2000 BA flights were cancelled in the UK during the strike, and a further 4,521 flights were delayed due to the knock-on. Moreover, thousands of passengers were left stuck at the airport.
In retaliation, BA striped all of its pilots of their travel benefits – free or discounted flights across the world – for a period of three years. This move has added more fuel to the proverbial fire.
A third walkout had been planned for November 2019, but it called-off just days before the event for reasons not mentioned. Pilots have also informed BA of their intention to re-start negotiations with the company. With the holiday season approaching, BA is worried that a walkout during Christmas and New Year may be a real possibility.
Breakthrough deal expected to usher in happier times
In an effort to smooth things over with its team, British Airways has agreed to initiate a 12% increase in pilots’ pay. This would happen over the course of three years, with BALPA having the power to demand further pay raises to meet inflation. The revoked flight benefits will be reinstated, and pilots will be eligible to utilize these benefits anytime they want. Work rostering issues have also been sorted out in this deal.
But the battle hasn’t been won yet. BA’s pilots are yet to vote on this offer, and only when it’s accepted by a majority will the deal officially go through.
The pilots’ demand to be part of the company’s profit-sharing policy hasn’t been addressed in the deal, and neither have some of the other work-related issues. Insiders to the deal believe these problems may ignite during future meetings and prevent BA and BALPA from reaching consensus.