British Airways' (BA) new human resources director Tony McCarthy has been warned he will face "long-term problems" if he cannot find a solution to the dispute over the airline's plans for a subsidiary, Open Skies, in mainland Europe.
The British Air Line Pilots Association (Balpa) will open a ballot of its members this week on whether to hold strikes over the way Open Skies is set to operate.
Pilots are angry that BA wants to have a separate pool of pilots for Open Skies, fearing this will drive down conditions at the airline and damage its brand.
McCarthy, appointed in November after five years in charge of HR at Royal Mail, now faces the first test of his ability to calm tensions at the airline.
A Balpa spokesman told Personnel Today: "We very much hope we can get an agreement on this, but if we cannot then it is going to be a long-term problem for the company - in particular for its HR team."
McCarthy was unavailable for comment, but BA said it was "disappointed" that Balpa was holding a ballot for industrial action.
"We have created OpenSkies because, for the first time, we are being allowed to fly directly between continental Europe and the US," said a spokesman.
"We have given Balpa assurances that OpenSkies will have no detrimental impact on BA pilots."