BRITISH AIRWAYS (BA) pilots agreed to a 2.6 per cent pay cut yesterday, as part of a package of measures designed to save the ailing airline &pound;26m.<br /><br />The move comes as the firm&rsquo;s directors prepare themselves for what is expected to be a stormy annual meeting today.<br /><br />The pilot&rsquo;s union Balpa said 94 per cent of its members voted for the cut in pay, agreeing to take up shares in the ailing flag-carrier instead.<br /><br />In return, the pilots will receive &pound;13m of BA shares &mdash; about &pound;4,300 worth each &mdash; in three years&rsquo; time.<br /><br />The pilots, who earn an average salary of around &pound;80,000, will also see their flying allowances cut by 20 per cent.<br /><br />&ldquo;Our research indicates that BA is facing a real business challenge and this is not the case of the employer crying wolf,&rdquo; said Balpa&rsquo;s secretary general Jim McAuslan.<br /><br />However, other workers at the airline are more resistant to making the sacrifices requested by chief executive Willie Walsh, who says the firm is in a &ldquo;fight for survival&rdquo; because of rising costs and a fall in demand due to the global economic downturn.<br /><br />BA posted record losses of &pound;401m earlier this year &ndash; &pound;331m of which came in the final quarter alone &ndash; and scrapped its dividend.<br /><br />Walsh has asked thousands of staff to take pay cuts or work for nothing for a month in a bid to save cash.<br /><br />A deadline for agreeing 3,700 job cuts and a two-year pay freeze with cabin crew and administration staff passed without a deal on 30 June, and talks are continuing to try to break the deadlock.<br /><br />An angry GMB union, which represents many of these BA workers, says it will parade 12 lemmings in cages outside the airline&rsquo;s annual meeting at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre in Westminster today, and will hold up placards saying, &ldquo;Willie, time to head to the departure gate?&rdquo;<br /><br />The union will also hand out leaflets to shareholders as they arrive, asking for their support for a fairer agreement for its members.<br /><br />The GMB points out that last year the airline made a record profit of &pound;992m.<br /><br />It emerged over the weekend that Walsh had won backing for a potential rights issue to raise up to &pound;500m from the firm&rsquo;s biggest shareholders in a bid to repair the airline&rsquo;s balance sheet.<br /><br />BA said: &ldquo;We are pleased that BA pilots have voted overwhelmingly in favour of the cost saving package. Talks with our remaining trade unions, facilitated by the conciliation service Acas, are taking place.&rdquo;<br /><br />Walsh, who has agreed to work for nothing in July and sacrifice his monthly salary of &pound;61,000, says the airline&rsquo;s losses are running at almost &pound;3m a day.