Labor disputes at American Airlines and British Airways put travel plans at risk

Amanda Scheerer’s honeymoon plans included renting an apartment in Barcelona’s historic La Barceloneta district, visiting the Salvador Dalí museum and touring several famous Spanish wineries.

They did not include a strike by British Airways.

But last week, the trade union representing the airline’s cabin crew announced that it would stage a work stoppage this weekend and on selected days later this month to protest working conditions. “My husband and I were supposed to fly from Chicago to London and then on to Barcelona this Saturday,” said Scheerer, a copy editor who lives in Fort Wayne, Ind. But British Airways canceled her flight from London to Barcelona, putting her vacation in jeopardy.

Stateside, there’s also some concern about a possible industrial action. Last week, American Airlines flight attendants asked for federal approval to end contract talks, potentially setting the stage for the first strike at a major U.S. airline in almost five years. Crew members are negotiating a new contract and hoping to reverse some of the cutbacks they agreed to after 9/11.

“It’s an interesting moment in labor relations for the airlines,” said Jonathan Cutler, an associate professor of sociology at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., and author of “Labor’s Time: Shorter Hours, the UAW, and the Struggle for American Unionism.”

It may also be an interesting moment for airline passengers. Travelers such as Scheerer are likely to see the few remaining airline services further decimated during a strike — if they’re able to fly at all.
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British Airways strike is off for now — so what does that mean?

Looks as if the dreaded British Airways strike won’t be happening — at least not any time soon. The airline this morning won a High Court injunction to prevent a series of Christmas strikes by thousands of its cabin crew.

British Airways had sought the injunction yesterday, challenging the union’s ballot of its 12,500 cabin crew members. BA claimed some workers who had left the company took part in the voting.

A lawyer for the airline told the court the union, Unite, had no regard for its passengers.

With what appears to be withering contempt for the interests and concerns of over one million passengers and those whom they wish to visit over Christmas, Unite has induced strike action over the most important two weeks of the year for the traveling public.

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Strike update: Virgin Atlantic deploys larger aircraft to accommodate stranded air travelers

You knew this would happen.

Virgin Atlantic Airways just announced it would deploy larger aircraft on key routes over the 12 days of the planned British Airways cabin crew strike “in order to carry stranded passengers.”

Virgin Atlantic has identified a number of flights on routes such as New York (Newark), Boston, Washington and Delhi where it is feasible to operate the flights with larger aircraft. These selected flights will now be operated by an Airbus A340-600 rather than an A340-300, thereby providing 68 extra seats per flight. The extra seats will go on sale over the next 24 hours.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are bitter rivals, of course. Which makes the following quote from Virgin’s Richard Branson so — well, let me just play the clip for you:

It is a nightmare for passengers, and you have to feel for them at Christmas time. Any strike would obviously be extremely damaging to everybody – the company, employees and most importantly the traveling public.

But a good PR opportunity for Virgin Atlantic. Why else would you issue a news release on this? (Actually, let me rephrase: What took you so long?)

Meanwhile, British Airways has bigger fish to fry. It’s going after its own employees.
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If British Airways strikes, will anyone fall into the “codeshare gap”?

Looks like British Airways may be shut down by a strike — just in time for the holidays. I’ll let the beat reporters dissect this story, but there’s one angle that appears to be getting overlooked: What’s going to happen to passengers with “codeshare” reservations?

Codesharing the practice of selling seats on another airline but claiming them as your own. The problem is, there are passengers with seats on one airline that are actually booked on a British Airways flight. (Codesharing arrangements must be disclosed by law, but who pays attention to the fine print in a reservation?)
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