Qatar Airways to cover impending BA strikes

Less than 24 hours before a major 16-day strike by cabin crew, it has emerged that British Airways will receive vital staffing support from Qatar Airways.

Under the UK Department for Transport proposal, British Airways will be able to lease nine Airbus aircraft from the Middle-East airline, as well as the crew required to operate them.

It’s understood that the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) had recommended the plan as a way of reducing passenger delays and cancellations.

The Unite workers’ union has initiated the 16 days of strike action in response to a dispute over pay. Approximately 2,000 BA employees are involved in what has been a lengthy industrial dispute about “poverty pay”. The dispute has arisen discovery that staff employed by BA after 2010, are earning less than equivalent cabin crew that commenced employment before 2010.

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Heathrow is due to experience the biggest impact as a result of the walkout and a handful of scheduled flights have already been merged or cancelled by BA. However, the airline is confident that the lease arrangement that has been agreed with Qatar Airways will allow a large proportion of passengers to reach their destinations. BA representatives have gone on record to state that 99.5% of scheduled flights will take place, with Qatar Airways handling a few short-haul flights to cover staff shortages. A spokesperson for the company also took the opportunity to explain that there has been a requirement to merge some long-haul services from Heathrow, with prior notice given to passengers affected.

British Airways had to seek formal consent from the UK Transport Secretary with the backing of CAA chiefs due to the fact it would involve aircraft and crew from a non-EU country.

The Unite trade union claim that the temporary agreement contravenes EU regulations and are voicing concerns over Qatar’s poor human rights reputation. Subsequently, their representatives are making moves to prevent a lease deal from taking place, urging the CAA to withdraw its approval.

The union stands by the decision to strike and has also made claims that BA and its fleet partners even threatened to remove benefits and rewards for colleagues participating in strike action, a situation that has increased tensions further.