British Airways has said strike action announced by its pilots will “destroy” the travel plans of tens of thousands of its customers.
The airline’s pilots will strike on 9, 10 and 27 September after numerous solutions to resolve a dispute over pay were rejected, according to the British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa).
British Airways chairman and chief executive Alex Cruz told Sky News: “We will cancel flights, I cannot tell you exactly how many at this stage, but we will contact each passenger that may be affected.”
Mr Cruz said he was “extremely disappointed” Balpa has rejected “a deal that has been approved by the other unions representing 90% of the people working at British Airways”.
He promised to provide passengers with options either for a refund or to fly with another carrier, with the firm hoping to “minimise disruption”.
In a statement the company called Balpa’s planned strikes “completely unacceptable” and a “reckless course of action”, promising to “do everything we can to get as many people away on their journeys as possible”.
British Airways said it was prepared to offer 11.5% pay increase over three years, terms which were accepted by unions representing engineers, cabin crew and ground staff at the airline.
Balpa said its proposal “remains on the table” should the airline agree to accept its demands before the strike dates.
The union pointed out the cost to British Airways was around £40m per day of industrial action whereas its demands over the pay dispute amounted to £5m a year.
The company announced profits of £2.5bn in 2018 and is set to return £1bn to shareholders in 2019.
Balpa said in a statement: “In these circumstances, with a 93% vote in favour of taking industrial action, and with no prospect of any further meaningful talks, we have no choice but to call this action.
“In what is British Airways’ centenary year, this will be the very first time its pilots will go on strike.
“They do so as a last resort and with enormous frustration at the way the business is now being run.”
Mr Cruz said he was “absolutely available from this moment to continue discussions”.
In July, BA lost a legal challenge at the High Court to halt the prospect of walkouts following the breakdown of talks.
After the ruling, the head of British Airways’ parent firm, Willie Walsh, told Sky News the airline will do “everything we can” for customers if pilots strike at the height of the summer holidays.