The start of a 48-hour walkout by British Airways pilots forced the national carrier to cancel virtually all flights on Monday, with no sign of a resolution ahead of more planned strikes.
Heathrow Terminal 5, BA’s main operating hub, was almost deserted, when it would normally be bustling with passengers. BA carries about 145,000 passengers on an average day.
Only five BA flights were expected to operate out of about 800 that would normally be scheduled after its first ever pilot strike, called by the union Balpa in a long-running pay dispute. Two of the flights were leases, where the plane and crew are hired under another operator, and the other three are understood to have been flown by non-Balpa pilots in BA’s management team.
Balpa has rejected a pay rise of 11.9% over three years, arguing for a profit share for its members, who have accepted cuts to pay and pensions in previous years but now argue they should get more because the company is posting record profits.
The BA chief executive, Álex Cruz, called for “unconditional” talks to continue but Balpa said the airline had refused to commit to meaningful negotiations.
BA had spent weeks contacting passengers to offer refunds or to rebook travel to another date or airline since 23 August, when the strike dates were announced.
Some of the few travelling through Terminal 5 at Heathrow on Monday morning described BA’s home base as a “ghost town”.