Update, 5 p.m. EST: As announced, the British Airways cabin crew have gone on strike. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that the more than a thousand flights have been canceled, and the airline is scrambling to charter flights from rival lines and pull together a backup crew. This first strike is scheduled to extend through Monday, 22 March. (A second strike is currently scheduled for 27-30 March.) Cruise passengers who may be affected by the strike should contact the cruise line, their travel agent or British Airways, depending on how they booked. The WSJ is also reporting that passengers with canceled flights from Saturday through the end of the second planned strike (March 30) will be allowed to rebook on another British Airways flight within 355 days at no extra charge (there are no refunds).
(March 12, 10 a.m. EST) -- British Airways cabin crew have announced their intention to strike after talks between the airline and Unite, the trade union that represents the majority of crew, broke down.
The strike dates are 20, 21 and 22 March, 2010 and 27, 28, 29 and 30 March, 2010. More detailed schedules are due to be announced over the next few days, at which point we'll have a better idea of impact to cruise travellers.
This is the second time in months British Airways crew have disrupted the travel plans of thousands of holidaymakers, although the threatened Christmas strike in 2009 was called off after it was declared illegal. The dispute is over pay and conditions.
The airline Web site says that not all flights will be cancelled, although exactly what will and what won't operate has not been decided yet. The current information is as follows:
All flights from London City will operate as normal during the strike dates
From London Heathrow, some long haul flights will be affected, as well as some short haul
London Gatwick fares better, with all long haul flights scheduled to operate and some short haul
All flights by BA's alliance partners, which include American Airlines, Iberia and Qantas, will operate as normal.
There is still a chance the strikes will be called off, as union members are voting on a last-ditch offer from British Airways, but we won't know the result of the vote until next week, just days before the first strike, which is of little consolation to passengers flying out to join cruise ships.
Between now and when the actual affected flights are announced, which is expected to be Monday, 15 March, British Airways will offer full refunds to anybody due to fly between 19 March and 31 March -- in other words, the entire strike period. Once the exact flight cancellations are known, you'll only qualify for a refund if your flight is affected.
If you're affected by the strike and booked through a travel agent or cruise line, they should be able to make enquiries on your behalf. Passengers who booked direct with British Airways will need to deal direct with the airline; the Web site Ba.com carries regular updates on the strike.
We'll monitor the situation and keep you posted as the situation develops.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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British Airways' Strike Dates Announced
March 12, 2010