British Airways has begun warning passengers any travel plans later this month will likely be affected by a second walkout in a month by its pilots.
A number of passengers on Thursday (12 September) received text messages and emails telling them that their flights on 27 September had been cancelled.
It comes after BA was forced to cancel the “vast majority” of its flights on Monday and Tuesday (9-10 September) owing to a 48-hour strike by members of the Balpa union.
BA said it was contacting passengers in advance to offer them a full refund, or the opportunity to rebook on an alternative date, with an alternative airline, or to an alternative destination.
The airline added it was working with “more than 50 airlines” to ensure customers have alternatives.
According to BA, it “shook hands on a pay deal” with Balpa more than a month ago, understood to be worth around 11.5% over three years, only for the union to later turn it down.
Balpa, meanwhile, has said it is “irresponsible and inconsiderate” of BA to cancel flights rather than return to the negotiating table.
Both parties have variously accused each other over the past month of being unwilling to talk.
“On 23 August, Balpa called a strike on 27 September,” said BA. “It is now a month since we shook hands on a pay deal. We urge them to call off their strike and return to negotiations.
“To give our customers as much certainty as possible, we are now contacting all those affected to offer them a full refund or a rebook on an alternative date, destination or airline.
“We are very sorry that Balpa’s actions will affect thousands more travel plans.”
BA said it had bolstered its customer relations team to support customers, with up to 900 people answering calls at peak times.
The team has dealt with 491,000 calls and 125,000 tweets since Balpa announced the strikes on 23 August.
Balpa, meanwhile, accused BA of announcing its pre-emptive cancellations on Thursday – outside the 14-day window in which it would have to compensate affected passengers under EU Regulation 261.
“Balpa set a gap between the first and second periods of strike action to give BA time to work with us to settle this dispute with their pilots,” said the union.
“We had today [Thursday] been exchanging new ideas to do that via Acas and so it is irresponsible and inconsiderate to its customers that BA has pulled out and decided to start cancelling flights now.
“BA did not respond to our latest proposals before cancelling these flights. Passengers who will be affected by these cancellations should know that we have given BA multiple opportunities to work with us, so we could call off this action.”