BA pilots agree to arbitration in dogfight over Open Skies subsidiary

British Airways pilots have agreed to conciliation with an independent third party to help resolve a dispute over the airline’s plans to launch a standalone European subsidiary.

BA plans to set up Open Skies in June to provide direct flights between mainland Europe and the US under a new US-European Union air services treaty. It has said it will appoint new pilots to the company.

The decision to call in third party arbitrators was reached at a meeting between BA and the British Air Line Pilots Association (Balpa) at the BA’s headquarters at Heathrow today.

BA chief executive Willie Walsh said: “We welcome the progress made today and are confident that a settlement can be achieved through conciliation that will protect our customers from the possibility of disruption.

“We are proud of the professionalism and high reputation of our pilots and have never sought conflict with them,” he said.

Earlier today, members of Balpa voted overwhelmingly for strike action, with 86% in favour in a 90% turnout. The union represents 3,000 of BA’s 3,244 pilots.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: “What BA pilots want is to have one pilot community for both the mainline and the OpenSkies subsidiary, with the same professional standards, equal opportunities for pilots to move between companies, fair promotion prospects and a safeguarding of pay and conditions [through] binding agreements.”

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