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Airlines body hits Unite for BA strikes...

THE trade body for the airline industry yesterday accused rebellious British Airways staff of being “divorced from reality”, as figures revealed the commercial damage done by the Icelandic ash cloud.

In an unexpected broadside, the chief executive of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the labour unrest plaguing Europe this year was “unbelievable”.

Pointedly referring to actions by Unite, the BA cabin workers’ union, Giovanni Bisignani said: “It’s a tough competitive world…. Labour must realise their paycheques are supported by the performance of this company. The middle of a fragile recovery is not the time for striking.”

At a time of economic turbulence “this mentality is divorced from reality,” Bisignani added.

His comments came as IATA said flight disruptions caused by the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland caused European airline traffic to fall 11.7 per cent last month. Global passenger traffic was down 2.4 per cent, the first drop since August, as dust from the crater closed airports from Britain to Morocco for six days from 14 April. Around 100,000 planes were grounded, causing extreme frustration among operators struggling to bounce back from the recession.

North American carriers also saw a 1.9 per cent slip in demand. Air freight was less severely impacted, but European carriers showed the weakest growth at 8.3 per cent compared with 11.5 per cent in March.

Bisignani said: “The ash crisis knocked back the global recovery – impacting carriers in all regions.”

FAST FACTS | ASH CLOUD CRISIS

• When Eyjafjallajökull began smoking in mid-April, flights were grounded over fears the ash would interfere with planes’ engines.
• According to the European Union, the interruption cost the industry up to €2.5bn (£2bn).