Is it time to give up on British Airways? An inside look at the carrier in chaos

British Airways passengers face more chaos as airline workers consider a summer holiday strike.

The news comes just days after the beleaguered carrier was forced to cancel 8,000 flights in its March-October schedule.

On top of this, 15 to 20 per cent of BA travelers on canceled flights still won’t be at their destination 24 hours after they were meant to arrive.

With airline workers set to vote on possible industrial action in coming days, the situation could get worse before it gets better.

So how did things get so bad – and is the end in sight?

How many flights has British Airways canceled?

British Airways has had a difficult couple of months.

Under short-staffing pressure, the airline announced last week that it had reduced its schedule by 10 per cent – around 8,000 round trips – between March and October.

The carrier insisted that customers would be notified of these pre-planned cancellations in advance, and would be entitled to seats on other flights.

If the cancellation was announced less than a fortnight in advance, passengers are also entitled to financial compensation.

But social media is nonetheless full of BA customers venting their anger.

“It’s shocking that you can just ruin someone’s holiday that they’ve worked hard to save for by sending a text 12 hours before departure! BA should be ashamed of itself, ”social media user Michael posted on Friday.

Other customers complained about being kicked off flights at the very last minute.

“Absolutely appalling,” tweeted Lucy Jones, a British journalist.

“Just got to Heathrow Airport to be told by @British_Airways they’ve overbooked our flight and we can’t fly. How do they allow this to happen? !! “

A BA spokesperson conceded that recent weeks have been “challenging for the entire industry. “

“At British Airways we’re completely focused on three priorities: our customers, supporting the biggest recruitment drive in our history and increasing our operational resilience,” they said.

“We’ve taken action to reduce our schedule to help provide certainty for our customers and are giving them maximum flexibility to either rebook with us or another airline as close to their original departure time as possible, or to receive a full refund.”

How did things get so bad – and will it get worse?

The global aviation industry has cut an estimated four million jobs since the start of the pandemic.

When COVID grounded almost all of its planes, BA axed 10,000 jobs. So now, as the world reopens, the flagship carrier has to ramp up from 30 per cent capacity to 80 per cent capacity – with a vastly reduced team, and a critical shortage of baggage handlers. It’s also facing record numbers of absenteeism due to COVID cases.

The chaos has hit BA where it hurts – the pocketbook. First-quarter operating losses were € 754 million, far worse than analyst forecasts of € 510 million.

Faced with a difficult profit margin and angry customers, BA is scrambling to resume normal service.

How is BA planning to fix the problems?

The carrier plans to hire 6,000 staff this year. There’s no shortage of applicants – more than 20,000 people have applied for a job at the airline – but the hiring process is slow due to government-mandated security vetting procedures.

In order to “bypass British red tape” BA plans to open a crew base at Madrid Barajas airport.

It has also borrowed aircraft and crew from its Oneworld partner Finnair to try to stabilize its schedules over the summer.

But BA faces another difficulty – the possibility of striking staff.

Will BA staff strike this summer?

Unhappy with pay conditions, check-in and ground staff at Heathrow have this week voted to hold a ballot on taking industrial action.

The GMB and Unite unions – which represents hundreds of these workers – said members were “furious because a 10 per cent pay cut imposed on them during the pandemic has not been reinstated”.

“Under the cover of COVID, British Airways used the abhorrent fire and rehire practice to slash check-in and ground handlers’ pay by 10 per cent,” said Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary.

GMB union representatives warned that the industrial action could “trash many people’s summer holidays” if it goes ahead, urging BA to hike worker pay.

Meanwhile, the airline described the ballot as “disappointing.”

“While this is not a strike ballot, it is a disappointing response from this small group, considering our genuine offer of a 10 per cent reward this year ahead of planned pay talks,” a spokesperson said.

“Our colleagues are the heart of our business and we are continuing to talk with their union representatives.”

Strike or no, travelers are gearing up for a summer of winding queues and long delays.

According to Airline Council International modeling, delays and cancellations are inevitable at two thirds of European airports this summer.

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