British Airways customers are set to face further disruption after the airline confirmed it would cancel the vast majority of flights on September 27 because of a planned pilots strike.
BA said it would be emailing affected customers on Thursday afternoon and that resources at call centres had been tripled to help deal with passengers looking to rebook.
The move comes as BA and the British Airline Pilots’ Association, the union representing the majority of BA’s pilots, have failed to restart talks after a 48-hour strike earlier this week.
Britain’s flagship carrier was forced to cancel almost all of its 1,700 flights over the two days, hitting 195,000 customers.
BA refused to specify exactly how many flights would be affected by the 24-hour walkout, saying only it would affect the “vast majority” but would not be as bad as this week’s walkout, when just a handful of flights operated.
The decision to cancel flights is likely to escalate the row with pilots, who this week warned again they would consider further strike dates if BA continued to refuse “meaningful negotiations”.
BA said: “To give our customers as much certainty as possible, we are now contacting all those affected to offer them a full refund or a rebook on an alternative date, destination or airline. We are very sorry that Balpa’s actions will affect thousands more travel plans.”
Brian Strutton, general secretary of Balpa, said: “BA should be trying to resolve their dispute with pilots. Instead they seem intent on forcing further confrontation and passengers are left suffering the consequences.”
BA has started contacting affected customers 15 days ahead of the strike taking place. Under EU law, this means that passengers are only entitled to a new flight or a refund. If BA had given 14 days or less in notice, passengers might also have been able to claim compensation.
Balpa hit out at BA, saying it had set a gap between the first and second periods of strike action to give “BA time to work with us to settle this dispute with their pilots”.
“We had today been exchanging new ideas to do that via [arbitration service] Acas and so it is irresponsible and inconsiderate to its customers that BA has pulled out and decided to start cancelling flights now, just to save money on compensation,” said Balpa.
BA acknowledged that while the two groups had put forward new ideas through Acas, the airline felt it had needed to “give our customers certainty” and that was why it had started to make the cancellations.
The further disruption will add to the estimated £80m hit from the two-day walkout this week. Lawyers for BA said in a court hearing in July that strikes would cost about £40m a day, while analysts at RBC on Monday said the estimated daily cost could be £50m.
Alex Cruz, chief executive and chairman of BA, on Monday admitted the strikes would “punish” the brand.
The airline has offered pilots a pay increase of 11.5 per cent over three years but Balpa has asked for a profit-share scheme.