As the first wave of the British Airways cabin crew strike comes to an end, the airline and its passengers are bracing themselves for another walk-out -- this one four days long -- starting Saturday, 27 March.
According to various media outlets, it is hoped that an agreement can be reached with the union over the pay and conditions dispute, but the outlook is not good for this weekend. Tony Woodley, the joint leader of Unite, said today, as reported in Times Online, "I don't think there is any doubt that it will go ahead I don't see any willingness on the part of the company to find a settlement."
Domestic and short-haul flights will be the worst affected. Long haul flights stand a much better chance of operating -- which is good news (inasmuch as any of this is good news) for British cruise passengers, who are mainly travelling to far-flung destinations at this time of year.
The advice we're getting from the big cruise lines is pretty much the same across the board; Cunard Line, Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises and Princess Cruises have all posted notices on their Web sites saying they are in the process of sourcing alternative flights for those customers who booked air travel as part of a package and whose flights have been affected. But until the weekend's schedules are confirmed, in the next couple of days, the cruise lines may not be in a position to do much, either.
What we do know, and what a separate call to British Airways has confirmed, is that passengers won't simply turn up at the airport to find their flight cancelled. Everybody affected will be contacted, whether they booked direct, through a travel agent or via a cruise line.
If your flight is cancelled, you can rebook on another date, rebook on the same date to the nearest alternative airport or ask for a refund.
So what's operating, and what's not?
British Airways has updated its Web site today with comprehensive listings of flights due to operate up to and including Friday, 26 March. If you are due to travel during the strike period, 27 to 31 March, keep visiting the site. At the moment, the information is as follows:
All flights from London City will operate as normal
All long haul flights from London Gatwick will operate as scheduled
Some, but not all, long haul flights from London Heathrow will operate as scheduled
Some short haul flights from Gatwick and Heathrow will be cancelled
Virtually all domestic flights will be cancelled
All code-share flights on BA's partners will operate as normal
Know before you board
Flights that do operate may have "a different style of onboard service" -- in other words, a reduced level of catering and service -- so travel prepared. The airline has also chartered a number of aircraft from different carriers, which may not offer the same configuration or comfort level.
One final note: Some flights over the strike period have actually been reinstated, as more crew than expected have turned up for work. If you changed your booking between when the strike was announced and when it started to avoid the strike dates, and your original flight is now scheduled to operate, you can switch back at no additional cost (subject to availability).
We'll keep you posted as news unfolds about the weekend's schedule. Keep checking back.
--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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U.K. Cruisers Brace For Second British Airways Strike
March 22, 2010