British Airways locked in negotiations to avert strike by pilots

Two British Airways aircraft, with British Airways plane taking off in background.

British Airways is locked in talks with its pilot union in a last-ditch attempt to diffuse a dispute over pay and avoid a walkout by crew in the critical summer travel season.

Management from the airline and representatives of the British Airlines Pilots Association, or Balpa, are meeting in London Friday at the U.K.’s state-backed Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service after the carrier, a unit of IAG SA, failed in a bid to have a court block the strike plans.

Following the ruling on Wednesday, Balpa said it would participate in the talks until the end of the week and, if a deal wasn’t found, give management a required two-week strike notice. Crews have voted with a 93% majority to approve industrial action, which the carrier has said could cost about 40 million pounds ($48 million) per day.

“Our talks with Balpa continue, and we remain open and flexible to find a solution,” BA said in a statement. A representative from Balpa declined to comment on the talks.

The disruption would come at the tail end of the peak season for European travel and could dent IAG earnings. The group reported Friday that BA’s lucrative long-haul routes helped lift second-quarter operating profit 18% to give it the best performance among leading European carriers. The airline is also facing pressure from a possible no-deal Brexit that could dampen travel from the U.K. as consumers cut back spending due to the weakening pound.

IAG Chief Executive Officer Willie Walsh said the group’s other airlines, including Iberia and Vueling in Spain and Ireland’s Aer Lingus, would help in the event of any labor strife at BA. It would also try to benefit from any reduction in capacity if strikes go ahead, he said.

“BA will do whatever they can do to assist the customers,” Walsh said on a call with analysts about results. “The rest of the group will do what they can do to take advantage of the unfortunate situation and support and help BA in their efforts to look after customers.”

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