Your questions on the BA strike answered

Q: How likely is a strike?

Unite previously organised a 12-day strike over the busy Christmas and New Year period but this was called off after the High Court found the balloting process was illegal. However, in January Unite confirmed its intention to hold another ballot among its 12,000 members.

Most voted ahead of another court ruling; on Friday 19 February Unite lost its legal battle to overturn the airline’s cost-cutting measures with the High Court ruling that British Airways acted within its rights.

The judge also rejected the union’s argument that it was not properly consulted on changes – including pay freezes and reducing the number of cabin crew on long-haul flights.

Following the ruling, McCluskey said it made “absolutely no difference” to the substance of its dispute with British Airways. However, the airline has now threatened to take away travel perks from workers who do take part in the strike - and sources say this could sour the appetite for industrial action among cabin crew.

Although negotiations between Unite and the airline did not produced a satisfactory result, British Airways submitted a formal offer to staff.

Unite said cabin crew would be given the opportunity to consider this offer -  but it refused to recommend they accept it, claiming it "falls short" of addressing its concerns.

Following further discussions, Unite has now confirmed that cabin crew will walk out just after midnight on 20 March.

The strike will last between 20 and 22 March, and from 27 to 30 March.

Q: What are my rights if my flight is disrupted by strikes?

British Airways says it still intends to operate a range of flights and not all will be automatically cancelled.

The following flights will operate normally:

* All flights to and from London City

* All longhaul flights to and from London Gatwick

* All flights operated by its subsidiary, franchise, alliance and codeshare partners

Updated flight schedules are now on its website.

If you are booked to travel between 19 and 31 March 2010, you do have the option to rebook or cancel, and obtain a refund onto other British Airways flights outside of the strike period for up to 12 months from the original date of travel.

However, rebooking options will be subject to availability.

If flights are cancelled as a result of strike action, customers will also be able to cancel their booking and claim a full refund - EU regulations require that airlines pay refunds within seven days or offer passengers the soonest available flight to their destination.

British Airways says passengers should not come to the airport.

British Airways Executive Club members will continue to earn Tier Points and airmiles for flights cancelled due to any strike action.

British Airways is also liable to pay for meals and refreshments that you take during the waiting time, and overnight hotel accommodation and transfers if necessary. You'll also entitled to claim two free telephone calls, plus the cost of emails or faxes.

However, you won't be able to claim for other expenses incurred - for example, if your car hire company or hotel refuse to refund you and you are unable to travel to your destination, then you will have to try and claim through your travel insurance.

If you flight is delayed or cancelled within 14 days of departure then technically passengers are able to claim compensation under EU regulations. However, this excludes problems caused by strike action.

Q: Will my travel insurance cover me?

Passengers have been warned that insurance policies bought after 18 January (when the new ballot was announced) are unlikely to cover cancelled or disrupted flights.

“Insurers will say that passengers knew about the risk of strike action when buying their travel insurance, if this was purchased after 18 January,” explains Bob Atkinson, travel expert at

However, it is worth checking with your insurer as some may continue to offer you cover until a strike is confirmed.

Even if you did buy travel insurance before 18 January, you should still get in contact with your insurer as soon as possible.

“Not all policies will cover passengers for strike action,” says Atkinson. “Generally speaking, the cheaper the policy the less likely you will be able to claim for disruptions that were beyond your control – such as a strike.”

Travellers with  annual insurance policies but who booked their British Airways tickets after the 18 January should also double check what their rights are. It may be that some insurers will not offer cover, arguing that passengers knew there was a risk of strike action before they booked.

Q: What should I do?

You can manage your booking on British Airways website. If you made your booking on, or direct through a British Airways call centre, then you can call 0844 493 0787 in the UK (daily 6am to 8pm local time). Or if you're in the US, you can call 1 800 247 9297 (1 800 AIRWAYS).

If you made your booking through a travel agent, then you should contact it directly. As long as the company is part of the ATOL (Air Travel Organisers' Licensing) scheme, then you should be covered for your losses.

You can also keep up-to-date on the strike action on Moneywise's dedicated British Airways page.


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