Unite, the union representing British Airways cabin crew, has confirmed a five-day strike starting from next Monday 24 May, and has notified BA management that there will be further strikes on 30 May-3 June and 5-9 June if the dispute is not settled.
On Monday 17 May, the High Court ruled that it would be illegal for cabin crew to take the planned 20 days of strikes, but Unite has now won an appeal, enabling it to press ahead with industrial action.
What BA flights will be unaffected by the strike?
BA has said that all flights to and from London’s Gatwick and City airports will operate as normal, and not all flights from London Heathrow will be cancelled. Other airlines may offer to take passengers who were due to travel on BA.
Check the British Airways website
Passengers should check the BA website to find out whether their flight is one of those affected. BA has published a revised schedule for 24-29 May, and aims to provide schedules for the following weeks at least four days before the dates of travel.
BA is offering passengers booked on flights that are cancelled because of strike action the chance to either reschedule or re-route their flight any time in the next 12 months without charge (subject to availability), or to travel with an agreed alternative airline, as long as the booking was made before 10 May 2010.
Make sure BA has your details – go to the ‘manage my booking’ page on the British Airways website and add your email address and mobile phone details so that you can be contacted with information about your flight.
If you booked through a travel agent or tour operator
If you booked your flight through a travel agent or tour operator, contact it to see whether it can arrange alternative ways of getting you to your destination. If you’ve booked accommodation, car hire or other holiday elements separately from the flight, contact the company you booked with to find out what its cancellation policy is.
Can I get my money back if I’m affected by the BA strike?
Once a flight during the strike period is cancelled, passengers who choose not take an alternative flight should get a full refund, and the amount of money refunded will be what was paid for the ticket. Refunds will be offered only for flights where schedules have been announced. If you claim a full refund and then discover that your original flight is going to operate after all, you will only be able to get back on the original flight subject to availability and by paying the current fare.
Will my travel insurance cover me?
This may be important if you’ve paid for holiday elements such as accommodation with companies other than BA. Recent research by Which?Holiday magazine revealed that 91% of the insurers asked did provide cover for an airline strike.
But it depends on what the small print says. Some policies exclude industrial action regardless of when the policy was taken out. Other passengers who booked their flights before the strike ballot was announced on 10 May, and had travel insurance at the time of booking, may find that they’re covered. Flights booked after 10 May are not likely to be covered by any standard policy.
Check our reviews to find a Which? Best Buy travel insurance policy.
I have to fly next week. What should I do?
If you need to fly, you might want to consider booking another flight as soon as possible, but until it’s announced that your flight has been cancelled, you can’t rely on getting a refund.
You may end up with two tickets and being left considerably out of pocket (though you will at least be able to rebook your BA flight for a later date). Seats on alternative flights could be hard to find. Being flexible on the airport you travel from and being prepared to accept a convoluted journey may help (it may even be worth considering travelling by train to the airports in Paris, Amsterdam or Brussels).
What about compensation?
Strikes are considered an ‘extraordinary circumstance’ for the airlines, so it’s unlikely that any compensation under the EC Denied Boarding Regulations will be paid to customers who are delayed or who have their flights cancelled.
Even if you’re entitled to claim a refund, you are only likely to get back the money you originally paid. Your travel insurance, if it covers you, may pick up any extra that you’ll have paid to get to your destination. You’ll need to check the small print for this.
Read the Which? guide to your flight rights for more on getting compensation for delayed or cancelled flights.
Rochelle Turner, head of research for Which? Holiday says: ‘Air passengers have faced massive disruption to their journeys over the past few months as a result of industrial action and volcanic ash. We hope BA will continue to provide information about cancelled flights to its passengers as quickly as possible, and we urge BA and Unite to come to a resolution soon so that passengers won’t be left in limbo.’
Which? Holiday is a quarterly magazine that provides comprehensive, unbiased advice on booking and going on holidays and short breaks. Members can also call Which? Legal Service free of charge to discuss any holiday-related problem. Visit Which? Holiday to find out more.