British Airways pilots are threatening to strike as passengers look set to face more holiday chaos as the summer of discontent continues.
Balpa, the union representing thousands of pilots, has said industrial action could be necessary as it looked to secure pay rises for its BA members.
The airline says it remains committed to talks with unions but any walkout is likely to cause widespread disruption. BA was forced to cancel all its scheduled flights the last time pilots walked out in September 2019.
The threat adds to a tumultuous period for the airline, which has already been forced into cancelling tens of thousands of short-haul flights up to October, affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers.
A Balpa source told Travelling For Business that the airline “seem to ignore you until you issue a ballot”.
The source highlighted the recent success of other unions in securing pay deals for check-in staff, ground handling crew and those working at refuelling companies, adding: “They did it by stomping their feet and having a ballot on strike action.”
A typical British Airways pilot earns about £75,000 a year but most receive flight allowances on top of this, while a captain can receive a much higher wage. However, pay is one aspect up for discussion, with rosters and meal allowances also to be negotiated.
To stave off pandemic job losses in July 2020, BA pilots accepted temporary pay cuts of 20 per cent — falling to 8 per cent over the next two years. Now pilots want a pay increase.
Sean Doyle, the airline’s chief executive, was warned during a meeting with Balpa that only “quantifiable actions would be acceptable”, according to an email the union sent to it members last week.
Martin Chalk, Balpa’s general secretary, said: “We are in talks with British Airways and wish to persuade them that continuing deductions from our members’ pay is unwarranted. We should actually be talking about pay increases given the inflationary scenario. Unless BA is prepared to walk with us down that road then we will have to consult with members to consider our next actions.”
A spokesman for the airline said: “We remain committed to continuing talks with the union.”
A BA pilot who asked not to be named told The Mirror that disruption was “inevitable” at some point and could cause walkouts on other airlines. “Once one group of pilots strike and take a stand against what’s been going on, it’ll spread quickly across the industry,” the pilot said.