British Airways cancels 'nearly 100% of flights' in pilot strike over pay

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The near-grounding of the British Airways (BA) due to the strike by its unionised pilots over pay issues, could have its cascading impact on the student community who fly to England for admissions around this time, warn the travel services industry.

BA said it is "extremely sorry" and told customers affected they can expect a full refund.

In a statement Monday, the airline said it had "no way of predicting how many (pilots) would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly".

The carrier, 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 almost all scheduled flights.

In an interview with Sky News, BA chief Alex Cruz said the action was an "own goal" and part of a "cynical" action by the union.

BALPA points to a almost 10-per cent jump in pre-tax profits reported by BA-parent IAG past year.

On the first day of the strike, 145,000 passengers faced cancelled worldwide and domestic flights mainly at London's Gatwick and Heathrow airports. Other carriers associated with British Airways, including BA CityFlyer, Comair and Sun-Air were not affected. The airline says it has made pilots in the union "a generous offer of a 11.5% pay increase over three years". Having just taken a British Airways flight from London Heathrow on Saturday afternoon back to the States, this morning's headlines were pretty jarring. BALPA had said it would have called off the strikes this week if BA had engaged with the offer.

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BA says a "vast majority" of its travellers have either made alternative arrangements or accepted refunds since being informed of the possible walkout last month. Following the strikes on September 9 and 10, another day of industrial action is scheduled for September 27.

"This strike will have cost the company considerably more than the investment needed to settle this dispute", BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said in a statement on the eve of the strike.

BALPA announced on August 23 that its pilots would be striking on September 9, 10 and 27 following a pay dispute with the airline, which they claimed would "not accept" any of "a number" of solutions that would have avoided a strike.

The strike would be the company's first involving pilots since the 1970s and could cause travel chaos for customers at the tail end of the busy summer season.

Last month, when the strike dates were announced, the airline said it was "likely" anybody booked on those days will not be able to travel. BA said it is still willing to hold talks with BALPA "on the basis that there are no pre-conditions to those talks".

The airline said it would be in touch with people scheduled to travel September 27, the expected date for the next strike, if their flight is affected by the strike.

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