June 8, 2010 / 11:59 PM / in 9 years

BA says strike will not affect World Cup flights

LONDON (Reuters) - British Airways said on Tuesday a cabin crew walkout would not affect flights to the soccer World Cup as the latest five-day strike drew to a close, while some MPs expressed concern over the costly dispute.

British Airways cabin crew picket at Heathrow Airport in London June 5, 2010. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

“In this final strike period there have been no cancellations to our flights to South Africa, Johannesburg and Cape Town, so those going out to the World Cup will be completely unaffected by the dispute,” a BA spokesman said.

British Airways cabin crew started the most recent five-day strike on Saturday in a long-running dispute which has so far cost the airline more than 120 million pounds.

The Unite union, representing the vast majority of cabin crew workers, says the dispute has cost the airline 154 million pounds and has had a major impact on schedules.

The strikes stem from BA’s decision last November to cut cabin crew pay and alter staffing levels on its flights.

Some Unite workers took their grievances to parliament on Tuesday where they met some opposition Labour Party members to explain their side of the story.

Labour was in power when the dispute started in November, but the centre-right party has since lost the May 6 election, which heralded a Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition.

The union complained of bullying by the airline of its members and sackings of striking crew that had fostered a “climate of fear.”

The MPs signed a House of Commons motion expressing “deep concern” there had been no settlement to the dispute which was now the longest-running in recent British aviation history.

Citing an academic report they noted disciplinary action at the airline since the strike began is on an “unprecedented scale.”

They also noted the strike “can only be damaging to the reputation and standing” of the UK’s national carrier and urged both parties to immediately start talking again.

BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said on Monday he was “absolutely determined” and “absolutely right” in his dispute with cabin crew. He said he was putting the long-term viability of the airline first.

The BA spokesman reiterated the airline had been operating 80 percent of long-haul flights and 60 percent of short-haul ones out of the airline’s hub at London Heathrow.

London City and London Gatwick remain unaffected by the dispute, he said.

Reporting by Stefano Ambrogi

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