Cabin crew strike to cause chaos for BA passengers

Candy Bellinger

Those who have already booked their holidays this year could face misery at the airport as British Airways cabin crew voted yesterday in favour of industrial action. A massive 81 per cent of the 12,000 BA staff voted in favour of strikes that could last until summer and beyond.

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The overwhelming percentage of staff are angry over BA's plans to reduce the number of cabin crew on board a jumbo jet from 15 to 14 as well as changes to conditions of service. BA, however, say that industrial action is "completely unjustified".

Though no date has been set for the strikes (and the Unite transport union say the Easter school holidays will be avoided) just seven days notice of industrial action is required. And that means passengers could face chaos as early as the middle of next week. By law, strikes must take place within four weeks of the ballot but even a one-day strike could mean that staff can then continue striking as often as they decide.

With Gordon Brown's former spin doctor Charlie Whelan (who has contributed more than £10 million to the Labour party during the last three years) the political director of Unite, the Conservative party were quick to point the finger. Shadow Transport Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "While the unions try to wind the clock back to the 1970s when strike action under the last Labour Government crippled the country, Labour should show that they are prepared to stand up to their union paymasters."

BA has been preparing for the threat of action by training up to 1,000 pilots and 2,500 volunteers, including cabin crew, in order to keep at least some services in the air. But despite this, customers are already making other plans.

Bob Atkinson, travel expert at told the Daily Mail: "Today's result is a disaster for BA and its staff. Customers are voting with their feet. We have seen a 19 per cent reduction in people clicking through to BA flights since the last ballot started."

Do you agree that Labour should stand up to the unions or are BA staff justified in voting for strikes?