As tens of thousands of British Airways passengers learn that their flights have been cancelled because of the next pilots’ strike, some have expressed fury at problems contacting the airline.
The cancellations were announced on the last possible day before British Airways would have to pay compensation under the European air passengers’ rights rules.
Members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) are striking on 27 September. The previous stoppage on 9 and 10 September grounded 1,700 flights and disrupted the plans of almost 200,000 travellers.
A British Airways spokesperson said: “It is now a month since we shook hands on a pay deal. We urge them to call off their strike and return to negotiations.
“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.”
The Independent calculates that nearly 900 flights and over 100,000 passengers could be affected by the next strike, as it will affect services on the days before and afterwards.
All travellers whose flights are cancelled are entitled to be rebooked on the closest corresponding flight on a different airline, at BA’s expense.
David Sheppard tweeted: “I’ve had my email which was a holiday booking to Crete (flight and hotel) and they seemingly are only offering full cancellation and refund.
“There is no mention of an alternative flight home.”
After The Independent recommended he ask BA for a flight on easyJet, he reported: “Calls are being cut off due to the volume of others that are no doubt trying.”
Another passenger, Linda Brady, tweeted: “@British_Airways trying to get through. Fly to Florida tomorrow. Flight home on 27th cancelled. Help please? Cant rebook or cancel on line. This is disgusting!”
“Dugmac” tweeted: “As you left it to the last possible moment to say my 27/9 flight is cancelled (to avoid paying extra compensation if cancel within 14 days) & as my date is fixed I’ve had to pay an extra £350 to fly with someone else as few options left.”
Juan Huelga tweeted: “First you cancel my flight, then tells me I need to call, then I called and an answer machine tells me that you have high volume calls, told me to call later and hung up on me. Nice customer experience. I haven’t started my holidays and you already ruined it.”
The pilots’ union said: “Balpa 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 Acas and so it irresponsible and inconsiderate to its customers that BA has pulled out and decided to start cancelling flights now, just to save money on compensation.
“BA did not respond to our latest proposals before cancelling these flights. Passengers who will be affected by these cancellations should know that we have given BA multiple opportunities to work with us so we could call off this action.”
The airline responded: “We have put forward new ideas through Acas this week and have called on Balpa to meet us face-to-face as soon as possible to return to negotiations.
“However, we need to give our customers certainty, so we have contacted all those affected by the union’s strike on 27 September.”
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