Pilots union to ballot members over BA plans for separate European airline

British Airways pilots last night moved a step closer to their first strike action for almost 30 years over plans to set up a subsidiary in mainland Europe.

The British Air Line Pilots Association (Balpa) has said that a ballot of its members will take place from 31 January to 20 february on whether to hold strikes in the dispute over the airline’s plans to set up the Open Skies subsidiary to fly between mainland Europe and the US.

A spokesman for the union said it was “confident of getting a strong yes vote”.

BA pilots are angry that the airline wants to have a separate pool of pilots for its new Open Skies venture, fearing this will drive down conditions at the airline and damage its brand.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said earlier this week: “We believe there should be one pilot body for BA and its subsidiary, so that there can be fair promotion opportunities.” He said that was it was important to have a single pilot force in such a safety critical industry, and that it would also safeguard the BA brand.

“OpenSkies is being set up with BA money, will fly BA planes and draw on the BA brand,” he said. “A brand is more than a tailfin, it is about its people, and the BA pilot community is making a stand to protect that brand. This is a line in the sand.”

The last strike by BA pilots was in 1980.

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