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March 20, 2010

British Airways strike leads to cancellation of thousands of tickets

     London: Thousands of passengers had their flights cancelled on Saturday following the launch of a strike by British Airways cabin crew. It is the first such strike in 13 years. After talks over cost cutting between the airline and union Unite, which represents cabin crew, collapsed on Friday, the troubled airline said it hoped to keep flights running for up to 49,000 passengers on both Saturday and Sunday. Unite said that its 12,000 members were supporting the three day walkout. At Heathrow, which is the worst affected airport, screens were set up to protect the identities of BA staff who defied the strike. BA said it expected 60 percent of its long-haul services and 30 percent short-haul services from Heathrow would be running over the weekend while short-haul flights from Gatwick would be halved. In a bid to keep the service run normally going, BA chartered planes from rival airlines, drafted in volunteer crew from among its other work force and rebooked some passengers on other services. “I am deeply sorry. This is a terrible day for BA. Thousands of our staff will be serving you over the weekend. I am confident that we will be able to deliver a good service,” News.com.au quoted BA CEO Willie Walsh , as saying in his apology to passengers. However, Unite claimed that two of the planes chartered by BA as part of the airline's contingency plans were delayed by technical problems and that more than 100 complaints had been made by passengers about catering. “We don’t want to strike but the company has been totally unreasonable and given us no choice,” one Unite member said. Analysts estimate that BA has already lost more than 25 million pounds because of cancelled tickets and contingency costs due to the strike.
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