British Airways had no option but to cancel virtually every flight for 48 hours beginning September 9 after what it’s calling an “unjustifiable strike” on the part of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA). This is a first for British Airways (BA), as pilots have never before gone on strike throughout the airline’s history.
Around 195,000 customers were slated to fly with BA on September 9 and 10, according to a statement received by The Washington Post. The airline operates up to 850 flights a day.
In a post released on the airline’s website Monday, BA said it had “no way of predicting how many [pilots] would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly.” As a result, the airline said it had “no option but to cancel nearly 100 percent” of their flights, with the possibility of more strikes on the horizon. What's the deal with these cancelations and what protections, like credit cards, do airline passengers have?
Why are the British Airways flights canceled?
BA received notice from BALPA on August 23, 2019, that they would strike on September 9, 10, and 27. This comes after months of negotiations between the pilot’s association and BA. But, ultimately, BALPA turned down an offer from the airline and opted instead to proceed with the planned strikes.
According to BA, the proposed deal was for an increase in pay of 11.5% over three years, which the airline claimed “is very fair and well above the UK's current rate of inflation.” Members of the Unite and GMB trade unions, which represent nearly 90% of all British Airways employees, including engineers, cabin crew, and ground staff, accepted the deal.
BALPA, on the other hand, claims to have put forward “a number of packages” that would have resolved this dispute without a strike, but BA did not accept any of them. “A day of strike action will cost BA around £40m [US$49 million]. Three days will cost in the region of £120m [US$148 million]. The gap between BA’s position and BALPA’s position is about £5m [US$6 million].” BALPA said in a statement.
The union accuses BA of taking in massive profits at the expense of workers who made sacrifices to assist the company during hard times, such as pay cuts, more work, and giving up annual leave days.
Are there more strikes planned?
As of right now, September 27 is the third and last day of known strikes for BA, although a resolution has yet to be reached. According to BALPA, more strike dates may be announced until this matter is resolved.
In addition, a similar strike by BALPA is set to take place against Ryanair later this month — on September 18-19, 21, 23, 25, 27, and 29.
What is British Airlines doing to help impacted passengers?
British Airways is offering all affected customer full refunds or the option to rebook for another date or on an alternative airline. For those who wish to rebook with an alternate airline, BA is working with its partner airlines to schedule larger aircraft to take as many customers as possible on the affected dates.
In the meantime, BA is advising passengers not to go to the airport. Instead, you can rebook or refund your booking online or by calling 0800 727 800 (from within the UK) or +44 (0)203 250 0145 (from outside the UK).
BA will be in contact over the next few weeks if you’re scheduled to travel on September 27 and your flight is impacted.
Flights on BA CityFlyer, SUN-AIR, and Comair are not affected.
Passengers should continue checking the BA website for updates.
How you can protect yourself against airline strikes
Airlines do not guarantee flight schedules, and the compensation you’re entitled to depends on why your flight was canceled. But there are a few things you can do to protect yourself in the event of an airline strike:
- Check if your airline has alliance partners: If your airline is part of an alliance, it will be better positioned to get you a flight on an alternate carrier should it be affected by a strike.
- Consider purchasing travel insurance: Not all travel insurance plans cover airport strikes, so make sure the policy you’re considering does. Also, you’ll need to purchase the insurance before a strike is announced.
- Don’t cancel your ticket or you won’t get a refund: If you find out your travel plans will be affected by a strike, don’t cancel your ticket or you might lose the chance to get a refund. Contact the carrier before making any changes to your itinerary, particularly if you've purchased through one of the best airline credit cards.
Airlines will usually try to do something for their passengers in the event of a travel interruption like a strike. Ticket rules might be loosened and many will not charge fees to rebook, but you’ll want to check with the airline you’re traveling with regarding its specific policies.
Will my credit card help?
If you pay for your ticket with a credit card that offers travel protection, you may be entitled to compensation should your flight be delayed or canceled due to an airline strike. For instance, the Chase Sapphire Reserve is one of the best travel credit cards that offers trip cancellation/trip interruption insurance, covering you if your carrier cancels or changes your flight as a result of an organized strike that impacts public transportation.
Premium Travel Benefits
Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening
5X points on flights and 10X points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually; 3X points on other travel and dining & 1X points per dollar on all other purchases