British Airways says it has had to cancel ‘nearly 100%’ of flights after pilots began a 48 hour strike over pay today.
Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), are taking their first ever industrial action against the airline, grounding hundreds of flights.
Up to 145,000 passengers will be affected by the flight cancellations, with BA usually operating up to 850 flights a day.
Many have been offered refunds or the option to re-book their flights on another date or with an alternative airline.
Heathrow airport will be worst affected as it is the busiest hub for BA.
The airline has said it was ‘ready and willing’ to resume talks with the union, but there is little or no sign of the deadlock being broken.
The company says it has offered a pay rise of 11.5% over three years, taking the pay of some captains to more than £200,000.
However, Balpa says its members wanted a bigger share of the company’s profits.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: ‘British Airways needs to wake up and realise its pilots are determined to be heard.
‘They’ve previously taken big pay cuts to help the company through hard times.
Now BA is making billions of pounds of profit, its pilots have made a fair, reasonable and affordable claim for pay and benefits.’
Mr Strutton called on the company to ‘negotiate a way forward’ and accept that pilots would not be ‘bullied or fobbed off’.
He added: ‘The company’s leaders, who themselves are paid huge salaries and have generous benefits packages, won’t listen, are refusing to negotiate and are putting profits before the needs of passengers and staff.’
Balpa said the strike will cost BA £40 million a day, claiming the dispute could be settled for £5 million.
Earlier today, British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz was asked on Good Morning Britain how he could justify his own pay increase from £830,000 last year to £1.36 million this year, which is significantly more than the 11.5% being offered to staff.
Mr Cruz said the company was in a far better position today than in previous years, which meant it could offer ‘above inflation pay rises to all staff’ and that more than 90% of BA employees had already accepted the pay deal being offered by the company.
A BA spokesman said: ‘We understand the frustration and disruption Balpa’s strike action has caused our customers.
‘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.
‘Nearly half of Balpa members joined BA after the 2008 economic crash so they did not make any financial sacrifices.
‘Since then, the aviation industry has become ever more globally competitive. We have had to make some difficult decisions to create the strong financial platform we now have, and which provides stability for our entire workforce, including pilots.’