A WINTER walk-out by cabin crew at ailing airline British Airways was yesterday declared illegal by the High Court.

The Court’s judge Mrs Justice Cox sided with the carrier, saying that the Unite union had not correctly balloted its members on the strike action. BA had argued that the union took votes from staff who had left the airline.

The injunction means that cabin crew, who are up in arms over proposals to cut the number of crew on all flights, cap pay, and reduce remuneration for newly hired workers, cannot strike as planned for 12 days over Christmas.

BA is desperately seeking to restructure as it tackles a £3.7bn pension deficit and slumping demand for travel in the recession.

The union called the ruling “a disgraceful day for democracy” and pledged to re-ballot its crew if the dispute was not resolved.

BA welcomed the news, saying the decision would “be welcomed by hundreds of thousands of families in the UK and around the world.”

The airline met with the union yesterday for further frantic talks to resolve the dispute, supervised by conciliation service Acas, after a meeting between chief executive Willie Walsh and the union’s general secretary Tony Woodley fell apart earlier in the week.

“The cabin crew were ill-advised to strike at such a crucial period,” aviation expert and guest lecturer at City University Michael O’Donovan said. “The union is led by a group of militants who are of the old school – they don’t seem to understand that BA needs to restructure to be profitable,” he added.

Analysts estimated the strike would have cost the airline around £30m a day, with around 1m passengers affected and 7,000 flights grounded.

The average pay for BA cabin crew is £29,900, compared with an average of £20,200 at easyJet and £14,400 at Virgin Atlantic Airlines, airline body the Civil Aviation Authority said.

Meanwhile, there was further good news for Christmas holiday-makers yesterday, as a proposed walkout of Eurostar drivers, which was set to take place today and tomorrow, was called off.