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BA puts £21m price tag on strike

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM

British Airways worked to get operations back to normal on Tuesday following a three-day strike by cabin crew that the airline says cost it about £21 million (US$31.5 million).

The airline faces a second walkout this weekend - this time for four days beginning Saturday - by crews represented by the Unite union.

No further negotiations have been announced.

BA said it operated 273, or 78 per cent, of its long-haul flights and 442, or 50 per cent, of its short-haul flights over the first two days of the strikes.

It is yet to release details for Monday.

BA said Monday that it estimated the three-day strike would cost it around £7 million per day, less than the airline initially thought.

It declined to forecast the cost of the next walkout, but said that its full-year profit outlook was currently unchanged.

The airline is on track for a record loss this year after reporting an operating loss of £86 million for the first nine months, compared to a profit of £89 million a year earlier.

Reputation damaged

Business group London First, whose members include many of London's internationally based businesses, warned on Monday that the capital's reputation as a centre for global trade was being damaged by the strike.

"Despite the best efforts of BA management and many staff to continue to put the interests of passengers first, the strike is reminiscent of a best-forgotten era," said London First Chief Executive Jo Valentine.

There was little sign of appeasement from either side on Monday as Unite joint leader Tony Woodley told a rally of striking workers at a football ground near Heathrow to stand strong against BA's attempts to "blackmail and browbeat" them into accepting worse pay and conditions.

The airline on Friday offered a compromise on a proposed pay freeze this year, offering a three per cent rise next year and the year after and then an inflation-linked increase in 2013/14 capped at four per cent.

The other changes include a switch to part-time work for 3,000 staff and a reduction in cabin crew sizes from 15 to 14 on long-haul flights from Heathrow.

Woodley said that BA was employing the "economics of the madhouse" by spending tens of millions on contingency plans for the walkout, including leasing planes and crew from rival airlines.

- AP