Published on : Saturday, June 24, 2017
British Airways cabin crew strike planned from 1-16 July has already created much stir amongst the travellers. To avoid the travel chaos, BA plans to draft in nine Airbus A320 and A321 jets from Qatar Airways. The Gulf carrier has plenty of spare aircraft, because its short-haul routes to Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other destinations have been grounded as part of a geo-political row.
Titan and Thomson where the other airlines British Airways has paid for during the previous bouts of industrial action to cover for its strike-hit flights. The concept, known as wet leasing, is also done with pilots and crew who are bought in along with the planes.
To use jets from outside Europe to cover, BA is required to “obtain prior approval for the operation from the competent licensing authority”, in this case the Civil Aviation Authority.
The application has been made on the grounds of “exceptional needs … to enable British Airways to continue passenger operations in light of planned operational disruption by its Mixed Fleet cabin crew.”
Oliver Richardson, National Officer Civil Air Transport for the Unite union, has written to the CAA saying: “No evidence has been presented to justify that either there are exceptional circumstances or that there are a lack of adequate aircraft on the community market. “The cited ‘operational’ disruption is related to industrial action by a particular proportion of Cabin Crew which does not affect the number of aircraft that BA has at its disposal, nor the number of pilots.”
The union also claims that “Qatar Flight Duty Time limitations and Rest requirements are inferior to the UK.”
Qatar Airways being one of the major owner of BA’s parent company, IAG has its own financial interest in maintaining the operation at Heathrow.
According to Mr. Richardson, Qatar could stand to be accused of using unfair support to provide such resources and labour in order to break legally compliant industrial action.
BA’s mixed flight crew will comprise of 35% of the airline’s total cabin crew and encompasses more than 60 routes from Heathrow.
The BA passengers who have bookings to or from Heathrow in the first half of July are still unsure if their flights will be affected by the strike.
A spokesperson for British Airways said: “Our priority is to fly all our customers to their destinations. We are looking at a range of options and are speaking with a number of airlines. We will publish our contingency plans in the coming days for customers who have bookings on the days of threatened industrial action.”