British Airways warns pilot strikes have cost airline £121m

Tom Belger
Finance and policy reporter
British Airways has been hit by strikes. Photo: PA

British Airways (BA) has issued a profit warning after it was hit by an unprecedented pilot strike and a threatened walkout by Heathrow airport workers.

International Airlines Group (IAG), the airline’s owner, said the two industrial disputes had cost it £150m and would lower its pre-tax profits by £190m in 2019, compared to last year.

Shares in IAG tumbled 3.9% on the announcement on Thursday morning, making it one of the biggest fallers on FTSE index of Britain’s top companies.

The company (IAG.L) was forced to cancel more than 4,500 flights after many of its pilots walked out in a row over pay earlier this month. Ground staff employed by Heathrow Airport also threatened action too in September and caused further disruption, but it was called off after an improved pay offer.

More than 2,000 flights were subsequently reinstated as another planned pilot strike on 27 September was called off, but the dispute has proved an enormous headache for the company.

READ MORE: British Airways cancels more flights just in time to avoid compensation

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa) has threatened further strikes if BA do not engage in “meaningful” talks over their demands for a larger share of the group’s profits for pilots.

BA said the pilots’ actions had cost the company £121m, and the threatened strikes at the airport had cost £29.2m.

It added that its offer of an 11.5% pay rise over three years “still stands,” and had been accepted by other unions at BA.

But a Balpa spokeswoman said blaming the strike was “completely disingenuous,” saying the company had also suffered major IT issues and a fine over a data breach.

She said the firm could have avoided the strike for £5m, but said the union had still had “no response” for its request for talks.

BALPA general secretary Brian Strutton said: “This is proof that BA’s intransigence towards its pilots is economic madness.”

READ MORE: Thomas Cook staff fear for their homes as they head to Jobcentres

IAG also said in an update to its full-year guidance on Thursday ‘passenger unit revenue,’ an important industry measure, would fall rather than be steady as expected.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh also told analysts on a call the collapse of Thomas Cook meant there was an “opportunity” to buy some of its slots at Gatwick airport.

He said his company would “be looking at” any slots available in future.