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BA – Broken Airline

December 16, 2009

After months of negotiation and wondering if they will or if they won’t, the BA cabin crew have had the ballot and are now going on strike for twelve days, starting next week. This will affect up to 1 million people who were looking to get away for Christmas.

2009 has become the year of discontent, where the few organisations that still have unions in this country are striking everywhere you turn. We’ve had the train drivers (the London underground drivers in particular making it an annual event), bus drivers, post office workers and now airline cabin crews. In previous years, a strike would’ve been understood and supported as a fight for a worker’s rights by some and an irritant by others. Now, almost to a man, the tolerance is practically nil, because in this recession, many people have either lost jobs, or have had to make sacrifices to keep the job they have. In this atmosphere then, even the most valid of reasons to strike is seen as selfish, so taking this kind of action so close to Christmas is practically suicidal if you want to get people on your side. The media have gone nuts on it, as you’d expect. I’ve been hearing tales of people on the radio who are not just a little bit inconvenienced, but are really going to suffer. The story of one woman in particular moved me. She had planned to go back to Hong Kong with the rest of the family to see her dying father for the last time. If she can’t find an alternative flight and pay again, probably at a higher price for the privilege, she may not be able to make it.

BA is not exactly flush right now. It suffered a £400 million loss in the last financial year and it doesn’t look as if there’ll be an improvement. Willie Walsh is the big bad wolf that’s bringing down the airline, according to BA staff and that may well be true, but aviation has changed in the last ten to fifteen years with the appearance of bucket airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet. These airlines have almost certainly been cutting into profits long before the recession was even thought of. I have written before about how I’d never fly Ryanair again in this lifetime and so far I’ve kept to my word. BA is currently seeking an injunction to stop the strike from happening and if they succeed it’ll give them breathing space. However, I have no doubt that if BA goes bust, there’ll be a big carve-up of the lucrative routes among other airlines. In the meantime, the 1 million passengers are holding their breaths for Christmas.

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