British Airways said on Monday it has been forced to cancel almost all its flights on the first day of a two-day strike by pilots. "After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this," BA said in a statement. The UK flag carrier and its 4,300 pilots have been locked in a nine-month pay dispute.
The airline said it remains willing to return to talks with the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA).
“Unfortunately, with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100 percent” of our flights, the statement added.
The Financial Times said the airline normally operates 1,700 flights over a 48-hour span.
“A vast majority of its passengers have either made alternative arrangements or accepted refunds since being informed of the possible walkout last month,” said the airline.
"We don't underestimate the inconvenience caused, for which we are deeply sorry," BA statement added.
BALPA in a tweet on Sunday said: "One day of strike action will cost BA, on their own figures, £40 million.”
"The difference between us now is £5 million. Why won't they work with us to end this dispute?"
Brian Strutton, general secretary of Balpa, said on Sunday that the union would challenge the measure in the courts, adding that the action made the dispute “harder to resolve”.
“This threatening behaviour is expected from BA,” he said. “We knew they were going to threaten to do that, it’s what they do in every strike dispute.” Union officials denied that the strike action was driven by greed, blaming instead the airline’s “macho” management style and a drive to cut costs that has increasingly seen it go down the path of no-frills carriers.