Yesterday the British Airline Pilots Association gave notice that they would cancel the strike for 27th September, just as BA had started cancelling some of the fights for that day.
The wording of their press release suggested that the earlier strikes of 9th/10th September had “demonstrated the anger and resolve of pilots” and that it was now ” time for a period of reflection before the dispute escalates further and irreparable damage is done to the brand”.
BALPA's General Secretary, Brian Strutton, approaches this manoeuvre with a reconciliatory tone:
“Someone has to take the initiative to sort out this dispute and with no sign of that from BA the pilots have decided to take the responsible course. In a genuine attempt at establishing a time out for common sense to prevail, we have lifted the threat of the strike on the 27th September.
“BA passengers rightly expect BA and its pilots to resolve their issues without disruption and now is the time for cool heads and pragmatism to be brought to bear. I hope BA and its owner IAG show as much responsibility as the pilots.”
A BA spokesperson told us:
“We are considering the implications and we will give our customers updates in due course”
What I find bizarre about this is neither side had made any progress in the discussions yet BALPA unilaterally concedes by calling off the strike. Their move may actually be a genuine attempt to settle, and I could also speculate what may have happened elsewhere although it would seem totally inappropriate without further comment from either side.
But to suggest “irreparable damage” had yet to be done is probably optimistic. Any strike will hurt any brand. Ask Joe Public about the strikes and they will say “British Airways did it” rather than “BALPA did it”.
Those who have flown British Airways for more than 10 years will probably still remember the cabin crew strikes a decade ago and the disruption that caused. We now have cabin crew on two separate contract types, the latter being paid under half of the former for the same work, and differing rest periods too. So while the general public may put it into the back of their mind, I'm pretty sure things will feel different within the organisation. I genuinely feel sorry for front line customer service representatives who have no doubt been on the receiving end of customer anger.
While BALPA retains the right to announce further strike dates, this will still need to undergo the statutory 14 day notice period. For those whose flights on 27th September have already been cancelled, sorry you won't be eligible for EC261 compensation but you may find a whole host of alternative options, even on competing airlines.