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TravelHaven News Brief – British Airways Strike

Stefano Ambrogi of Reuters reports from London that members of a British Airways cabin crew union began a second five-day strike on Sunday after talks to resolve the long-running dispute ended without agreement Friday. The new strike signals that there is little sign of a breakthrough on pay, staffing levels, and perks.

Thousands of passengers face more disruption at the start of a week of school holidays in Britain.
Seven days of walkouts cost BA 43 million pounds ($62 million) in March. The union has scheduled a third wave of strikes on June 5, days before the start of the World Cup soccer tournament in South Africa.

The stoppages come at a difficult time for BA, which last week reported a second straight year of record losses and is battling a global economic downturn and industry-wide recession. Continued industrial action, coupled with further disruption to flights in April caused by ash from an Icelandic volcano, could scupper BA’s chances of avoiding a third year of losses.

On Saturday, Unite repeated an offer to suspend the walkouts if the airline restored travel perks stripped from striking crew. The issue of travel allowances is a major sticking point in the conflict. Both sides also disagree on the impact of the strikes so far.

Despite the new strike BA said it will increase flights because more crew were returning to work than had been expected. It said it would up its longhaul service at London’s Heathrow airport to more than 70 percent of flights, from 60 percent this week. It also said it aims to increase shorthaul flights at Heathrow to 55 percent of flights from 50 percent and operate a full schedule from London’s Gatwick and City airports.

BA, which flies around 90,000 passengers a day, said about a quarter of its passengers would be affected by the strikes, but that they could claim a full refund, rebook or reroute their journey.