British Airways' pilots walked off the job Monday, the first day of a planned two-day strike that canceled more than 800 scheduled flights on one of the world's largest airlines on Monday alone.
The Guardian reports that just five British Airways flights were expected to take off Monday – mostly leased flights and small regional partner carriers. British Airways spent weeks preparing for the strike, as it has made little headway negotiating a new contract with the pilot's union seeking a pay increase and profit-sharing with the airline.
All told, more than 1,600 flights were expected to be canceled between Monday and Tuesday – with more cancellations looming on the horizon. The pilot's union has already scheduled another strike for Sept. 27.
The effects of the strike were a study in contrasts. While British Airways' call centers were swamped with callers inquiring about their flights or trying to reschedule, Terminal 5 at London-Heathrow (LHR) – typically jampacked for British Airways' flights – was nearly empty Monday.
British Airways pilots' union, called Balpa, has rejected a contract offer that would have increased pilot pay by nearly 12 percent over the next three years, holding out for a share of the airline's profits.
“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,” Balpa's general secretary Brian Strutton said.
British Airways CEO Alex Cruz has called for continuing talks with the union, which he accused of not negotiating in earnest.
The strike is expected to cost the airline more than 40 million pounds (nearly $50 million USD) each day.
If you're scheduled on a British Airways flight this week or later this month, stay tuned. There are few signs that this situation will improve.