Business

British Airways grounds nearly all flights as pilots strike

British Airways says it has cancelled almost all of its flights, a move affecting as many as 195,000 travellers, due to a 48-hour strike called by its pilots union over wage issues.

Airline says it had 'no option but to cancel nearly 100%' of its flights.

Terminal 5 of London's Heathrow Airport sits empty at 9 a.m. local time on Monday after strike action by British Airways pilots led to the grounding of flights. (Rahul Kalia via REUTERS)

British Airways said Monday it has cancelled almost all its flights for 48 hours, affecting as many as 195,000 travellers, due to a strike by pilots over pay.

In a statement Monday, the airline said it had "no way of predicting how many (pilots) would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly."

As a result, it said it had "no option but to cancel nearly 100%" of its flights.

Reuters reported that the airline part of the International Airlines Group (IAG), cancelled 1,700 flights to and from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Monday and Tuesday ahead of action by British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) members in BA's first ever pilot strike.

BA said it stands ready to return to talks with pilots' union BALPA and that it is offering affected customers full refunds or the option to rebook.

BA said in a statement: "We understand the frustration and disruption BALPA's strike action has caused our customers. After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this."

Seeking bigger share of profits

BA says it has offered pilots a pay rise of 11.5 per cent over three years but the union says its members want a bigger share of the company's profits.

The union accuses BA of making massive profits at the expense of workers who made sacrifices during hard times. A further strike is penciled in for Sept. 27.

Union leader Brian Strutton said pilots are determined to be heard.

British Airways planes sit parked at Heathrow Airport in London on Monday. The airline sayid it has had to cancel almost all flights as a result of a pilots' 48-hour strike over pay. (Matt Dunham/Associated Press)

"They've previously taken big pay cuts to help the company through hard times. Now BA is making billions of pounds of profit, its pilots have made a fair, reasonable and affordable claim for pay and benefits."

BA operates up to 850 flights a day. The company said it understands the frustration of passengers affected by the strike.

London's sprawling Heathrow Airport will be the most impacted by the work stoppage as it is BA's major hub and used for many of the company's long-haul international flights.

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