British Airways Takes Another Strike After Posting Huge Losses

I can’t imagine that the juxtaposition is lost on anyone. The British Airways flight attendants are Flight Attendant BA Fightcelebrating the next round of strikes while BA goes and posts more than a £500 million loss for the year ending in March 2010. The dysfunction at this airline is frightening and it will have a huge impact on you, the traveler.

You can be excused for thinking of BA as an Egyptian company, because they seem to be getting hit with all of the plagues this year. They’ve had heavy snow and strikes (£43 million hit). Oh yeah, and then there’s the business travel meltdown. Volcanic ash? Yep, but that wasn’t until April so this won’t even hit until the next fiscal year. I wouldn’t be surprised to see locusts next, though that would have far less impact.

Revenue was down £1 billion. Seriously. But low fuel costs certainly helped offset some of that. Still, the airline is hemorrhaging and needs some serious help.

So what kind of help will they get? More flight attendant strikes starting today. They’ll be striking from May 24-28, May 30-June 3, and June 5-9. This time, BA has had more time to prepare, so all flights from London/City and London/Gatwick airports will operate. For Heathrow flight info, go to the BA strike page.

The schedule has been set for travel through May 29. The schedule for travel from May 30-June 4 will come out this Wednesday, and the schedule for travel from June 5-9 will come out on Tuesday, June 1. Remember, just because they aren’t striking on May 29 and June 4 doesn’t mean everything will operate as expected. Planes and crews will be out of place on those days and for a few days before and after the strikes so flights will be canceled. Just make sure to stay up to date on ba.com.

It really seems fairly crazy to me that the flight attendants are continuing on with this strike. There is little doubt in my mind that all the uncertainty around the strikes and the volcano have pushed some people to think twice before flying through London and in particular, on BA. This strike is simply going to hurt more, and BA has made it clear that it’s not going to budge any further. If the flight attendants keep this up, they’ll simply end up being replaced.

If there’s ever been an airline in need of large systemic changes, it’s BA. The flight attendants are fighting a losing battle, but they seem to be fine with that as long as they take the airline down with them. What a mess.

[Original Photo via Flickr]


28 Responses to British Airways Takes Another Strike After Posting Huge Losses

  1. Gary says:

    The strike hurts the British economy. It even cotnributed to the Tory win in the elections. Cabin crew seem to have little popular support, a statement I base only on my conversations with London cabbies (who themselves are certainly hurt by less traffic in and out of Heathrow during the strike).

    And in the end cabin crew are striking over an offer that they may not much like but that isn’t at all unreasonable given the state of the company, the economy, and the competition.

    They’re getting bad (and fractured) leadership over at BASSA, for sure.

  2. Bobber says:

    I’m not sure why we haven’t heard more vocal complaint from the pilot’s union members and other non-cabin crew Unite members over the BASSA action, as most of them have had to take pretty sh1tty deals from BA and have done so, and turned up for work. If the (poor) press coverage is to be believed, the major sticking point in the latest negotiations was BA’s refusal to back down over the punitive treatment of previous strikers, who have had their non-contractual travel perks removed (as, in deed, they were warned before the strike happened). Whilst I’m sure it’s not quite as simplistic as this, most of the behavior of their members appears, at best, to be similar to a petulant child – but, frankly, that’s what we are breeding at school in the UK these days.

    I have no love for BA, and won’t (personally) miss them should they fold, but I have friends who work for them (and don’t strike) and obviously wouldn’t want anyone to lose a job that they rely on, due to the stubborn blooded-mindedness of a minority of individuals.

  3. Lee Palmer says:

    I really hate how petty and selfish these people are, they don’t seem to care about the damage they’re doing. If they aren’t happy with the job, find another one then.

  4. KM says:

    Just a month ago, Nottingham University in the U.K. released the results of a study showing that two rivals engaged in a battle for a £10 cash prize often became so determined to prevent the opposing party from being seen as winning at their expense that they did things that were against their own best interests in order to stop that from happening. (Link: http://tiny.cc/lbx3t)

    The airline industry is full of examples of this kind of behaviour, this being just the latest example.

  5. It’s the same thing as here in the USA. Union workers think they work for the Union, they forget it’s the company they work for that pays their salary. During these times they are lucky they have a job and a job located in a country that people in the world still want to travel to.

    Mean while they will strike which will hurt everyone including their fellow coworkers who are not in a union, make less they them, and have to accept any pay cut or benefit cuts the company decides on.

    If your company and in this case country has had some rough times and is not doing well, now it not the time to strike. They think they can force BA to accept what they want, but now a days things get to a point where money wise it doesn’t make sense to keep the company going.

    • frank says:

      If your company and in this case country has had some rough times and is not doing well, now it not the time to strike.
      ======================================================

      David, you forget that contracts become amendable. Negotiations last years and years past the renewal date. Tensions rise. MOST contracts in the past 20 years have been concessions. Now, tell me, when is the right time to strike, David???? Should employees sign away more concessions? which may last 7 to 10 years before the whole process starts again?
      This is how the labor laws work. Negotiations, mediation and strike. That’s MY RIGHT. That’s BRITISH AIRWAYS Flight attendant’s rights.
      It’s typical too, of the internet crowd to bemoan a person who’s a flight attendant. Overpaid, underworked mantra CRAP. You’re paid what you negotiate and this is being played out at British Airways.

      • Frank you need to do what you feel is right for you. You sound bitter and I’m sure you have gone through a lot. I used to work for a airline and got out many years ago for a better and higher paying job. Maybe you should think about doing that also. I was lucky and had skills which could be taken out of the airline world and used on the ‘outside’. Less stress also.

        • frank says:

          David. I have 30 years in. I see the end of the tunnel in TWO years. I can retire early because I can.
          Why do you think I’m bitter? Hardly. Discussions get heated when it comes to pay, benefits and quality of life issues. Who wouldnt want to protect those????
          Why continue to GIVE AWAY your occupation’s worth? It’s been a race to the bottom for almost ten years now. 9-11 kick started that fall. Half the industry went bankrupt in the early 2000 era and labor took massive cuts. That’s TEN YEARS AGO. Those cuts helped these carriers survive. It’s time employees stopped subsidizing cheap fares………….and the British Airways strike validates that step.

  6. blutarsky says:

    I don’t understand why British Airways will not reinstate travel benefits to avoid a strike. These standby travel benefits have almost zero cost. You need to stick to your word when negotiating but in this case it’s not worth the cost to the company.

    • ttjoseph says:

      If they restore travel concessions without a really significant giveback from the union, it will reinforce the idea that they can just threaten to strike and get what they want. BA no doubt feels that this would be very destructive to the company in the long term, so they are standing their ground. Note also that cabin crew are far from unanimous on their opinions.

      BA could just keep on like this until either the union relents (after having alienated all the other workers at BA, as well as the traveling public) or BA is put into administration, at which point employee contracts would become much more flexible.

  7. Crissy says:

    Maybe if they keep it up the airline wont exist anymore and they wont have to worry about a contract…

    I’m not anti-union, but there is a time for a job action, this isn’t it.

  8. Trent880 says:

    I think BA said those travel benefits would be revoked if they went on strike and they indeed stuck to their word. Can anyone corroborate?

    • CF says:

      That’s correct. The union saying that they wouldn’t strike if they only got their benefits back was a lame attempt to garner public support. That wouldn’t solve the dispute, just push it off further. But BA has already taken the big hit from this week’s strike so they might as well stick to their guns.

  9. Peter Bennett says:

    Remember Eastern Airlines and the mechanics strike. They too took the position that they would rather bring the company down than make any concessions. I hope BA is not another EA/BN/PA/TW in the making.

  10. I agree with your article completely; however, did you notice on BA’s website link on the strike that their call centres are open 7 days a week but ONLY from 6am to 8pm? Not exactly the epitome of customer service.

  11. Alex says:

    Cranky, I’m actually far more optimistic about BA than you seem. I think this is the last act of the strike saga. A deal seems close and I think this very long strike in a last throw of the dice from the Union to seal the deal. Enthusiasm (on both sides) for the fight seems to be waning.

    Another great sign from the annual results was that BA managed to slice £1bn ($1.45bn) out of their costs. BA still have a decent quality product on the world airline stage. As the economy picks up (and providing labour issues can be sorted) I don’t see the situation at BA looking quite so bad.

    For that extra “CrankyGeek” factor, I present the BA investor presentation:
    http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/IROL/69/69499/01_ID_2010_Full_presentations.pdf

    Some interesting stuff in there about the recent pickup in TATL premium travel, new fleet aircraft. At the end theres a bunch of interesting stuff about the new BA/IB airline.

    • CF says:

      I tend to agree that things will be ok, but it’s sure ugly right now. Regarding the flight attendants, BA will just wait for them to give in or replace them, I would think. It’s been going on long enough that they can fly much of their schedule already. But there is undoubtedly going to be “book away” due to all the disruptions lately.

      • Alex says:

        “Regarding the flight attendants, BA will just wait for them to give in or replace them”

        Agreed. I think this current strike is the play of this game.

  12. Nickn says:

    Bring back Maggie Thatcher. It’s this sort of union attitude which contributed to me leaving the country of my birth. Unions have their place but this needs sorting now. Short sighted idiots!

  13. Daren S says:

    My understanding is that it has stemmed from a proposal to have a two tier pay structure introduced at LHR much like was introduced at LGW a few years ago. Needless to say the new structure is much less generous for new employees than the old. The reality is that BA cannot afford to carry on offering the levels of pay that have been enjoyed by fortunate BA crew over the years. Times have changed since the airline was privatized 25 years ago and in order to survive the company must make these radical changes to working practices and conditions. Unfortunately the Union members are living in a fantasy land.

  14. Sanjeev M says:

    Cranky, I’m flying BA to India on the evening of June 7. I’ll be flying on the 2205 from IAD connecting to my Indian destination the next afternoon.

    You will be the first to know if anything goes wrong. (It should be fun though!)

  15. malbarda says:

    I thought this was a particular insightful commentary in the UK Times…

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/article7134446.ece

  16. GIO says:

    I am CONSTANTLY amazed at the media and the clueless public when it comes to airline employees. WHERE…are the concerns from the public and the media when airline employees are being forced to accept drastic cuts in pay…and their fearless overpaid leaders are raking in obscene pay packages?

    In case you’ve forgotten…the rank and file of airline labor is wholly responsible for your safe journey, currently at 1985 dollars based on wage inflation.

    GO BA Cabin Crew!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. GIO says:

    Let me add one other reminder…for all you “anti- unionistas” out there, please do remember, YOU are working class. You may like to pretend you are “Middle-Class” but you OWE, which means you are working to pay debt.

    Prior to UNIONS in the industrialized world, there was no such thing as a “middle-class” or “working-class”. Every thing you currently enjoy in the Western world from “weekends” to an hourly wage, and healthcare, you OWE to UNIONS.

    So, before you get knocked off your pompous fake “high class” seat next to the Queens of Europe…embark upon an educational refresher class as to who you owe your current comfy benefits to…Corporate Executives? HA!!!!

  18. When BA goes bankrupt, the flight attendants might realize then they helped get it there. BA is in no position financially to give out more. It can barely hang on now. It’s amazing the union doesn’t see that. It’s not like BA is posting profits and not sharing! Idiots!

  19. Nishant says:

    Amazing the power unions have now. I don’t hate unions but when people tell me that unions are working my my benefit and not their own, I just want to get rid of the unions. I know BA flight attendents have made sacrifices but they need to realize they are not the only ones. Think about how many people have lost jobs lately due to negligence on part of both the unions and corporate. GM is a prime example.

  20. You’ve got to ask “WTF??” when staff strike & further destroy their company’s already pitiful credibility as said company teeters on the edge. I’ve not seen insanity like this since Alitalia. Maybe it’s not just Italian soccer players that have been imported into the UK? :)

  21. keld says:

    We’re running a B & B in the South-West of France and have lost customers because of the volcano. Now, we’re loosing even more because of the strike. Very difficult to run a business now a days and you’re not making it any easier. One thing is to struggle against the economical crisis but then loose guests because someone else choose to go on strike, when the season is kicking in – I’m not impressed. I’ve sometimes questioned certain flight attendants will to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere during flights (more being treated like cattle even on business flights) and this just confirms my doubts. Are you really concerned about others well being, business and comfort?

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