Business Travel Tech Talk London, 16 October,
Business Travel Awards Europe, 30 October, JW
3rd Annual Business Travel Intelligence Summit
Of the 11,691 ballot papers returned, 78.7 per cent of British Airways' cabin crew yesterday (Monday, February 22) backed calls for industrial action. And almost 80% of the Unite union membership turned out.
Their gripe? That BA has reduced the number of cabin crew on long-haul flights by one; that pay and conditions are being frozen or cut, and that staff (and their union) were not consulted before decisions were made.
The majority who approved industrial action fell by 10 per cent on the first ballot late last year. On that occasion BA successfully obtained a court injunction preventing strike action taking place, on the basis that ineligible votes had been counted. But 78.7 per cent is still a significant majority.
The result won't have surprised chief executive Willie Walsh or any of his inner-circle. Indeed, executives at BA's Waterside HQ have been laying out contingency plans for the last six weeks.
Despite the apparent unanimity among Unite members, I can't help feeling they've just taken a decision equivalent to turkeys signing up for Christmas. It's no secret that BA's cabin crew - and, indeed, most of its long-serving staff - enjoy market leading pay and conditions; and each and every BA employee is acutely aware of the company's crippling financial situation (in April it is likely to post record losses for the second consecutive year).
All that coupled with a High Court judge's ruling last week which threw our Unite claims that BA had acted unlawfully makes the union's stance slightly bizarre.
A senior travel industry figure told me that BA's staff were "living in the past" and that their actions would "come back to haunt them" later in the year.
Sadly, he may not be far wrong. Depending on the depth of the potential fallout, the cabin crew could find themselves employed by an airline plummeting towards administration.
And the union can't even garner support from the Great British public. Passengers were outraged at the threat of strike action over Christmas, so this time round Unite has promised not to disrupt the Easter holidays.
But this, of course, is small consolation to the business traveller, whose plans stand to be severely disrupted. Travel management companies say scores have already, albeit reluctantly, switched to alternative carriers. While BA's Executive Club cardholders are known to be redeeming points to fly on partner airlines.
There are some, however, remaining steadfastly loyal to the UK's flag carrier. In a show of support, hotel chain Premier Inn released a statement to the press claiming that its business in conjunction with BA had increased over the last three months.
By law, Unite must give BA a week's notice before commencing any industrial action, meaning the earliest possible disruption would begin in March.
The travel industry has its collective fingers crossed that a resolution can be found sooner rather than later.