British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz has blamed the “cynical actions” of its pilots’ union for a two-day strike that has left airport terminals empty.
BA pilots who are members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) have begun a 48-hour walk-out in a dispute over pay and working conditions.
“We’re very, very, very sorry that due to the cynical actions of the pilots’ union we found ourselves having to cancel flights affecting, indeed, thousands of passengers,” Cruz told Sky News.
“This is by all means an own goal – it’s punishing our customers first, it’s punishing our brand, it’s punishing 90 per cent of colleagues who have already accepted this 11.5 per cent deal. And frankly it’s punishing those pilots that want to come to work every day, day in and day out, and making British Airways the best airline in the world.”
Pilots have rejected an 11.5 per cent pay rise over the next three years, which they claim is not in line with the airline’s £2bn profits.
BA has said the pay proposal is “generous” and has been accepted by the Unite and GMB unions which represent 90 per cent of its staff.
BA has been forced to cancel almost all of its flights this morning due to the strike action, which is also scheduled for 27 September.
“We understand the frustration and disruption Balpa’s strike action has caused our customers,” the airline said in a statement this morning.
“After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this. We remain ready and willing to return to talks with Balpa.”
Shares in BA parent company IAG were down almost three per cent at the time of writing.
Balpa has also called for a resumption of negotiations, after previous talks broke down. However, the union may enact its strike action at short notice any time in the next six months, meaning the dispute could continue until Christmas.
BA said it is offering affected customers a full refund or the option to rebook on an alternative flight.
The strike action will come as a further blow to IAG, which has suffered a share price drop of almost 30 per cent since the beginning of the year.
The strikes do not affect BA CityFlyer, which flies out of London City Airport.