London, Sept 9 (AFP/APP):British Airways on Monday cancelled almost all flights departing and arriving into the UK, as the airline’s first-ever pilots’ strike began, sparking travel chaos for tens of thousands of passengers.
The industrial action over pay due also Tuesday by members of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) trade union follows around nine months of failed talks.
The carrier, owned by London-listed International Airlines Group (IAG) and which operates about 850 flights per day in Britain, said it had no option but to cancel nearly all scheduled flights.
On the first day of the strike, 145,000 passengers faced cancelled international and domestic flights mainly at London’s Gatwick and Heathrow airports.
BA chief executive Alex Cruz called for talks to continue.
“We urge the union to please sit down with us as quickly as we can so that we can reach an agreement,” he told the BBC.
There were very few passengers milling around the departure area at Heathrow airport Terminal 5 in west London, AFP photos showed.
Blue screens displayed a message saying that BA was “deeply sorry” for the “large number” of cancellations at T5, home to its British operations.
“Unfortunately, with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100 percent of our flights,” British Airways said in a statement.
The airline stressed that it remained willing to return to talks but the union — which is seeking a bigger share of company profits — accuses BA for not wanting to negotiate.