Qatar Airways has urged passengers of British Airways to contact its oneworld partner directly for assistance in view of the UK-based airline's first-ever pilots' strike, which led to cancellation of hundreds of flights. Asked whether British Airways passengers could opt to fly the airline’s oneworld partner Qatar Airways, the Doha-based national airline’s spokesperson told 'Gulf Times', “Qatar Airways is unable to assist passengers in receipt of a British Airways issued ticket on a British Airways document. However, as a oneworld partner, should British Airways decide to re-protect any of its passengers on Qatar Airways flights due to cancellation, this will be agreed between both airline partners based on availability. As such we would advise any British Airways passengers affected by the industrial action to contact British Airways directly.”
On Monday, British Airways cancelled almost all flights departing and arriving into the UK, as the airline's first-ever pilots' strike began, sparking travel chaos for tens of thousands of passengers, an AFP dispatch showed. The industrial action over pay on Monday and Tuesday by members of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) trade union followed around “nine months of failed talks”.
British Airways, owned by London-listed International Airlines Group (IAG) and which operates about 850 flights per day in Britain, said it had no option but to cancel nearly all scheduled flights. On the first day of the strike, 145,000 passengers faced cancelled international and domestic flights mainly at London's Gatwick and Heathrow airports. British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz called for talks to continue.
"We urge the union to please sit down with us as quickly as we can so that we can reach an agreement," he told the BBC.
There were very few passengers milling around the departure area at Heathrow airport Terminal 5 in west London, AFP said.
Blue screens displayed a message saying that BA was "deeply sorry" for the "large number" of cancellations at T5, home to its British operations. "Unfortunately, with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100% of our flights," British Airways said in a statement.
The airline stressed that it remained willing to return to talks but the union -- which is seeking a bigger share of company profits -- accuses BA for not wanting to negotiate. According to AFP, British Airways and its 4,300 pilots have been locked in a dispute that could disrupt the travel plans of nearly 300,000 people in total over the two days. Pilots are also threatening to strike for one more day on September 27 -- and then possibly again closer to the winter holidays -- should the dispute drag on.
BALPA has rejected a pay increase of 11.5% over three years that the airline proposed in July. BA says the offer would see flight captains receive "world-class" pay and benefits of around £200,000 ($246,000 or 220,000 euros) a year. The airline pointed out also that two other unions representing 90% of the airlines' workers have accepted the 11.5% raise.
BALPA boss Brian Strutton also apologised for the travel chaos -- but defended the historic industrial action and blamed the company for failing to negotiate. "We are very sorry for all the disruption that's been caused by the industrial action," he told the BBC.