ALMOST 200,000 passengers have been thrown into chaos today as the British Airways pilots’ strike grounded hundreds of flights in the “biggest shutdown in history”.
The airline was crippled as pilots launched their 48-hour pay strike – with most flights out of Gatwick and Heathrow cancelled today and tomorrow.
The airline operates up to 850 flights a day, with most expected to be cancelled affecting about 195,000 customers over the two days.
And passengers slammed BA as their travel mayhem unfolded this morning, with some claiming they were left stranded and out of pocket already.
One unhappy passenger wrote: “Should be flying to Mexico this morning to start out 14 day holiday, instead flying on Wednesday but have lost two days off our holiday and you’re not going to compensate for the lost two days.
“Absolutely disgraceful, I will never fly with BA again!!”
Another added: “You’re a disgrace. My daughter (23 weeks pregnant) and husband stuck in LA and having to sort out their own return flights.
“Your phone lines are constantly on hold.”
A third said: “About to finish our honeymoon, luckily American Airlines are getting us home after two nights of 1am phone calls after BA cancelled our flight.
“Having to take a downgraded flight home, losing many thousands of pounds worth of avios and upgrade vouchers. Disgraceful BA.”
Heathrow airport will be worst affected as it is the busiest hub for BA.
BA has spent weeks offering refunds to passengers or the option to re-book to another date of travel or an alternative airline.
Photographs of Heathrow Terminal five, used by BA, show it almost empty of passengers after the cancellations.
And while the strikes are scheduled for today and tomorrow, there are fears there could be knock on effects for Wednesday.
The travel chaos comes after pilots rejected BA’s offered pay rise of 11.5 per cent.
BA said in a statement: “We understand the frustration and disruption Balpa’s strike action has caused our customers. After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this.
“We remain ready and willing to return to talks with Balpa.
“Unfortunately, with no detail from Balpa on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100 per cent of our flights.”
The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) warned the strikes could cost the company £40million a day.
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “(Pilots) have previously taken big pay cuts to help the company through hard times. Now BA is making billions of pounds of profit, its pilots have made a fair, reasonable and affordable claim for pay and benefits.”
He claimed the dispute could have been settled for £5m.
British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz called for talks with union bosses to continue in order to bring an end to the pilots’ strike.
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He told Today: “The discussions must continue, they must be unconditional.
“The commitment of everyone at British Airways is to get over this particular dispute as quickly as possible.
“We urge the union to please sit down with us as quickly as we can so that we can reach an agreement.”
Heathrow’s Terminal 5 was like a ‘ghost town’ today[/caption]
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