Ticket fares spike as BA pilots’ strike enters second day - THE GUARDIAN
By Wole Oyebade (with agency report)
The industrial action by British Airways (BA) pilots yesterday, entered day-two with a massive ripple effect on ticket fares and expected to push up in the price of a Christmas getaway.
More than 1700 flights were grounded on Tuesday after pilots began unprecedented walkout in a long-running row overpay.
The Balpa pilots’ union had on Monday, promised a “lengthy” campaign of industrial action until the row is resolved.
But rival airlines have raised their fares substantially for journeys on strike days as British Airways passengers scrambled to re-book their flights. An EasyJet flight from Glasgow to Amsterdam Tuesday costs £284, while the same flight a week later is just £57.
According to findings, all flights from London to Denver on Monday were sold out; but flying out Tuesday morning and returning that evening would cost a staggering £4,378 ($5,413) in economy – an inflation of 1347 per cent over British Airways’ September lead-in fare of £325 ($402) return.
Airfare specialists, Flight Centre, noted that the average cost of a return fare from London to Denver over the past 12 months has been £425 ($526).
Cairo – which British Airways is selling for £415 on other dates this month – costs £2,502 for an economy ticket, flying Monday and returning Tuesday.
The flight time to the Egyptian capital is just under five hours, making the fare around £500 per hour – more than the £403 average fare for the flight in its entirety over the past year.
Flying Tuesday and returning Thursday, the fare leaps to £3,155 ($3,900) – or £631 per hour – although the return is in business class, as economy is sold out.
Ironically, the flight is sold as a British Airways flight, but operated by Air Belgium, so it is exempt from the strike action.
BA’s sole rival on the route, Egypt Air, has fares from Heathrow to Cairo for £1,092 this week.
Steve Double MP, who sits on the transport committee, said the price of a Christmas getaway was likely to rise in the coming weeks amid the threat of disruption over the festive period.
“If you have an important trip over Christmas, I’d book it now. If it’s already with British Airways, I’d consider rebooking it,” he told reporters.
Nearly 200,000 people are thought to have been affected by Monday’s disruption, which is due to last until Wednesday at the earliest. Further action is set for September 27, and passengers could face strikes over Christmas if the row remains unresolved.
Many discovered yesterday that they will not be entitled to compensation under EU law because their flight was cancelled with two weeks’ notice.
The strike came after months of dispute between BA executives and around 4,000 pilots, who are demanding more pay. BA has offered a pay rise of 11.5 per cent over three years but the Balpa pilots’ union says its members want a bigger share of the company’s profits, adding that BA management’s “dumbing down” of the brand had eroded confidence in the airline.
British Airways has pointed out that the above-inflation pay rise would push the total average package for captains, including allowances and bonuses, above £200,000. Both sides have said they want to resume talks, but there is little or no sign of the deadlock being broken.
Balpa’s General Secretary, Brian Strutton, said: “British Airways needs to wake up and realise its pilots are determined to be heard.
“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.”
In a statement, BA said: “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.”