The British Airways Strike Has Already Cost the Airline $150 Million
We're now in the third day of the second wave of the second round of 2010 British Airways cabin crew airline strikes. The airline and the Unite union are in the midst of talks butno surprise hereno one expects them to go anywhere.
The union wants the airline to restore travel perks and withdraw employee punishment proceedings as prerequisites to negotiations. The airline says that concessions will come the way they normally do, as part of a broader agreement. So the odds of this current strike getting resolved before it runs its course are quite slim.
The conventional wisdom on the negotiations is that they long ago became a personal spat between BA CEO Willie Walsh and Unite joint General Secretary Tony Woodley. That's true as far as it goes, but it's not the whole story. As much as these two just really hate each other, each side is also dealing with fundamental life-and-death issues. The union needs to show that it can protect its members, which is why this seemingly random travel perks thing has become such a big deal. For its part, BA just posted a second straight year of record losses and is still reeling from volcanic ash problems. In the most basic terms, they simply won't survive unless they cut costs.
Each side is now just trying to bleed out the other. The strikes have cost BA about £100 million ($150 million), and obviously individual workers are hurting. But BA seems determined to outlast the union, and they're doubling down on replacement crews and creative scheduling. They're promising to run over 80 percent of long haul flights out of Heathrow, and all of their flights out of London and Gatwick, during next week's probably-inevitable third strike.
We've often written that, for all that we criticize them frequently, airlines tend to be run by really smart people who are really good at their jobs. Every day they make calculations involving dozens of competitors, hundreds of variables, and thousands of flights. If they can't juggle all of those every time they come into work, they don't succeed in the company. So, even if it might not be fair, our bets are on the company figuring out a way to continue operations. After all, this is personal.
[Photo: PhillipC / Flickr]
· BA and striking union hold talks [Reuters]
· Airline Industry [Jaunted]
· Airline News [Jaunted]