Sunday, March 21, 2010

Strike by British Airways cabin crew cancels or delays hundreds of flights
3/21/2010 7:50 PM
35m ago

British Airways cabin crews walked off the job for a second day Sunday, but the airline insisted the strike was having less impact than expected.

LONDON — British Airways cabin crews walked off the job for a second day Sunday, but the airline insisted the strike was having less impact than expected and said it restored some flights that had previously been canceled.

The airline — locked in a bitter dispute with workers over a pay freeze and changing working conditions — was forced to cancel or delay hundreds of flights over the weekend as cabin crew launched a three-day strike after negotiations collapsed on Friday.

Many travelers en route to the United States who were supposed to have brief stopovers at Heathrow, the airline's London hub, ended up stranded at the airport and faced long waits to connect with flights home.

But BA said it was coping well with the strike because of its extensive contingency plans and the fact that many crew members ignored the strike call.

BA said almost all the cabin crews at Gatwick airport and about half of those at Heathrow reported to duty Saturday, allowing the airline to reinstate more than a dozen previously canceled flights — including those to Miami and Los Angeles, as well as other short-haul European destinations.

The airline said all long-haul aircraft from overseas airports arrived in London as planned Sunday morning and said there was no evidence of strikes at any overseas airports. In preparation for the strike, BA had retrained some staffers to serve as cabin crew and leased planes and crew from rival carriers to take up some of the shortfall.

Still, about 1,100 out of the airline's 1,950 flights scheduled to operate during the three-day walkout were expected to be canceled.

Union leaders said that nearly 10,000 members did not go to work Saturday, and that as a result, many passengers complained about in-flight food and services.

Unite, the union representing BA cabin crews, said scores of BA planes were grounded, clogging up parking space, and only one of the five regular flights to New York's JFK airport took off Saturday.

BA had said at the start of the strike that it could handle 49,000 passengers a day on Saturday and Sunday — about 65% of the average 75,000 for a normal weekend day in March. Sunday, it declined to provide details of whether that goal was achieved or discuss the number of flights canceled or delayed.

Unite was planning a second, four-day walkout to begin March 27, and it had said more strikes will be scheduled after April 14 if the dispute is not resolved. The union has pledged not to walk out over the busy Easter period.

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