BA Cabin Crew vote for strike action (again) – Passenger rights


BA Cabin Crew vote for strike action (again) – Passenger rights

Easter is on the horizon, and many families are planning to take a well earned break beyond the shores of England. Those plans may be put on the back burner if planned British Airways cabin crew strike action goes ahead.

Unite the Union has today published the result of the strike vote – the fourth official ballot in 2 years. The press release declares that of the “just under 10,000” crew polled, some 83 per cent of the 6,981 who returned valid voting papers voted yes to strike action. This is broken down to: 

  • 5,811 crew voted YES to strike action;  and,
  • 1,170 crew voted NO to strike action.

Presumably therefore around 3,019 of those eligible to vote decided not to return their ballot papers.

Press releases

Today’s result has led to the usual mêlée of press releases: 

UNITE

Len McCluskey, Unite general secretary, said: “This vote shows that cabin crew remain determined to win justice. We urge BA’s boardroom to see this as a clear message that they must think again about how to regain the trust and confidence of a significant part of their cabin crew operation. “We continue to be in discussions with the company to find a solution to this long-running dispute.”

The press release included a link to an independent scrutineer’s report from the Electoral Reform Services.  

BA PLC

“Unite has not set any dates for the proposed strike action and we remain in talks with them. If a strike does take place, we have strong contingency plans in place. We will:

  • Operate a normal schedule at London Gatwick and London City
  • Aim to fly 100 per cent of our longhaul flights to and from London Heathrow
  • Aim to fly the majority of our shorthaul flights to and from London Heathrow”.

Philip Henson, Partner in Bargate Murray, and accredited mediator, says:

“Whether the discussions between the parties bring about any meaningful resolution to this ongoing dispute will remain to be seen.  It seems to me  that the parties are getting so entrenched in their positions that they are actually digging trenches. I hope that ACAS are called upon to try and bring about a workable solution to help save the costs for both parties, and to give some clarity to the travelling public”.

 Flight disruption – what are your rights?

If you are caught up in any disruption (presupposing the strikes do go ahead) then travellers should check the terms of their travel insurance policies, and also check their rights with the consumer watchdog for the aviation industry, the Air Transport Users Council (the AUC) – http://www.auc.org.uk

EU Regulation 261/2004

Travellers may find this link of particular interest:

www.auc.org.uk/default.aspx?catid=306&pagetype=90&pageid=9367.

 It lists the rights of air passengers under EU Regulation 261/2004 when a flight is cancelled (it only applies to those passengers flying from an EU airport, or from an airport outside the EU, to an EU airport, on an EU carrier).

Please pay particular attention to the section which states that “The airline is not obliged to pay compensation if it can prove that the cancellation was caused by “extraordinary circumstances” which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken”. 

Extraordinary circumstances and Regulation EC261/2004

Regulation EC261/2004 states circumstances under which airlines must pay compensation to their passengers when their flights are disrupted.  But it also says that airlines do not have to pay compensation when an event “has been caused by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken“.

The Regulation also gives the following examples of such circumstances (my highlighting)

  • political instability
  • bad weather
  • security risks
  • unexpected flight safety shortcomings
  • strikes that affect the operation of an air carrier
  • air traffic management decisions

The AUC refers to a European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision from December 2008, Friederike Wallentin-Hermann v Alitalia that as a general rule, airlines should not refuse to pay compensation when a flight is disrupted due to technical problems.  They would only refuse to pay if the problem “stems from events which, by their nature or origin, are not inherent in the normal exercise of the activity of the air carrier concerned and are beyond its actual control”.  This may leave some passengers without a remedy if they are stranded due to strike action.

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