British Airways cabin crew have begun the first of three five-day strikes after the airline and the union Unite failed to solve their disagreements.
The strikes, originally planned to start on 18 May, had been prevented by a court injunction granted because of Unite's failure to follow correct strike procedure. This was subsequently overturned following an appeal from the union.
Further action is planned for 30 May and 5 June, unless BA management and Unite can come to an agreement before then. Disruption is expected to be contained to flights in and out of Heathrow.
BA has contingency plans in place to fly approximately 60% of long-haul flights and 50% of short-haul services from Heathrow during the first strike. As part of this, it will lease aircrafts from other carriers and re-book affected passengers with other airlines.
If the planned action continues, disruption will hit passengers taking advantage of the school half-term break and the spring bank holiday, while football fans looking forward to a World Cup break may face travel misery, with the last strike coinciding with the tournament’s first weekend.
Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA, has called Unite a "dysfunctional" trade union, but the main sticking point in negotiations now is whether travel concessions taken from cabin crew who walked out in March will be reinstated.
How will the strikes affect you?
Q. I've booked a flight, what should I do?
BA has now confirmed its flight schedule for all flights in and out of Heathrow during the 24-29 May strike. It is currently working on schedules for the later dates. Visit the British Airways website for more details.
If your flight is cancelled due to strike action, there are a number of options available:
- Re-book with BA to the same destination within 355 days.
- Fly with one of 50 agreed alternative airlines.
- Fly to or from an alternative airport.
- Cancel your flight and receive a full refund.
Bookings made after 10 May will not be covered by these guidelines.
Q. Will my travel insurance cover me?
In terms of the rest of your holiday plans, you should contact your travel insurer to check where you stand.
Some travel insurers may not provide strike action cover on policies purchased after the announcement of the strikes – they will argue that consumers knew of the strike risk. However, check before you buy as some insurers will cover passengers for cancellations until the date the strike is formally confirmed.
Q. I still plan to travel, what should I do?
If you want to travel after the scheduled strike dates you must approach with caution and book at your own risk. If you proceed, ensure your travel insurance covers you for strike action and irrecoverable losses should your flight be affected. Should you accept a different destination following a cancellation, bear in mind that the airline will not pay your onward travel expenses. Some travel insurance policies should cover you though, so check with your provider.
Q. What should I do if I have a departure booked for once the current strike ends?
Theoretically you shouldn’t be affected, but if you have a flight booked to travel after 9 June, continue to check with British Airways.
Q. Where can I get more information?
You can manage your booking on the British Airways website. If you made your booking on ba.com, or direct through a British Airways call centre, then you can call 0844 493 0787 in the UK (daily 6am to 8pm local time).
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.