Will British Airways' 12-Day Strike Impact Your Holiday Cruise Plans?

December 14, 2009
(11:30 a.m. EST) -- This just in: British Airways cabin crew have voted nine to one in favour of a strike that will disrupt the travel plans of an estimated one million passengers over the Christmas period, including many flying to the Caribbean and other destinations to join cruises.

The strike, which is over working conditions, pay and job cuts, is scheduled to start on December 22 and will run for 12 consecutive days, finishing on January 2.

For cruise passengers, the strike falls between when most of the long Christmas and New Year cruises have already departed and the beginning of the busy world cruise season in January. There are no Cunard departures affected, for example; also, P&O Cruises uses charter flights for its cruises on Ventura, Artemis and Oceana in the Caribbean.

But other lines may well be impacted; a spokeswoman for Royal Caribbean and Celebrity tells us: "We're still looking into how the strike announcement will impact our guests, if at all." Other cruise lines that could be affected include Norwegian Cruise Line, Fred. Olsen, MSC Cruises and Costa Cruises.

We'll keep you posted as and when cruise lines let us know their own contingency plans.

Len McCluskey, assistant general secretary for the union Unite, which represents BA cabin crew, said in a news conference that the decision to strike had been "taken with a heavy heart." Whether the travelling public will show much sympathy is another matter; some British Airways' cabin crew, according to a statement on the company's Web site from chief executive Willie Walsh, already get paid nearly twice as much as those who work for Virgin, the airline's big rival on long haul routes.

Low-cost carrier easyJet, which flies to many of the same European destinations as BA, was quick to jump in with a press statement offering BA Gold Card holders "free Speedy Boarding," which means the privilege of being in the first group to board the aircraft, worth £5 per flight on average.

Meanwhile, a statement on the British Airways Web site says: "We are currently reworking our flight schedules for the strike period and aim to announce them as quickly as possible. Our intention is to inform affected customers directly if we have their e-mail address or by SMS text if we have their mobile phone number."

If you are booked to travel on British Airways between December 22 and January 2, the airline's Web site further advises: "Customers who are booked to travel between 22 December 2009 and 2 January 2009 and for 48 hours on either side of those dates who would like to take their flight at a different time can change to another BA flight departing in the next twelve months at no charge.

"If a customer's flight is cancelled because of industrial action, we will offer them the option to refund their ticket, rebook on to a different flight or reroute their journey on another BA flight."

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor
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