British Airways (BA) has lined up 1,000 volunteer staff to work as cabin crew to cover threatened strike action.
The airline said it would also hire up to 23 fully crewed planes from another charter company to help keep flights going during a strike.
Last month, Unite union succeeded in obtaining a vote in favour of strikes for BA cabin crew, but is yet to name the dates that it will take the action.
Willie Walsh, the BA chief executive, insisted the airline was “as prepared as we can be” for the strikes.
He said 6,000 staff – about one-quarter of BA’s non-cabin crew workforce – had volunteered to help break the strikes, and the airline expected to have 1,000 auxiliary cabin crew ready by next week, the Guardian has reported.
In an e-mail to BA’s 38,000-strong workforce, he said: “These plans will allow us to protect our customers’ travel arrangements better than many people imagined possible in the difficult conditions that a strike by the biggest section of our workforce is bound to cause.”
Walsh added he would not reverse the cabin crew cuts that were imposed in November, the BBC has reported.
Walsh also said Unite and BA had only had two hours of talks in the last two weeks, but the union said this was “utter nonsense”.
Len McCluskey, Unite’s assistant general secretary, said: “It is deeply regrettable that BA’s CEO has chosen to adopt this inflammatory and confrontational stance at a time when we are engaged in meaningful talks with the company.”
Unite have until 15 March to give notice of strike dates, and must stage a walkout by 22 March.