Impact of British Airways Strike on Cruises Still Up in Air

December 16, 2009
(1:14 p.m. EST) -- The Christmas travel plans of more than one million British holidaymakers remain uncertain today as British Airways struggles to stop a strike threatened by cabin crew.

Due to start on Tuesday, December 22, and run for 12 consecutive days, the strike -- which was announced earlier this week after cabin crew voted for industrial action by a majority of nine to one -- is about working conditions and pay.

British Airways started legal procedures today, claiming that "irregularities" in the strike ballot render the result invalid. The Unite union, Britain's biggest, will present its case tomorrow morning.

The two parties are meanwhile having talks with a view to avoiding strike action, but both are stating their positions in no uncertain terms on their respective Web sites.

British Airways' site carries a statement saying: "Unite was told about the problems with its ballot on Friday. Yet it cynically went ahead with an extreme, highly publicised threat to our customers and our business in the knowledge that it might not be able to carry it out. We remain available for talks with Unite at any time without preconditions."

Unite, meanwhile, states on its site: "If British Airways wants to get Christmas back on schedule, and values its relations with its own core employees, it will now take up our offer: Suspend the imposition of contractual changes and we will suspend the strike."

Cruise lines say they are monitoring the situation. Giulio Libutti, managing director, MSC Cruises UK and Ireland, told Cruise Critic: "MSC Cruises hopes that British Airways, as a supplier of flights to its passengers, will resolve the current issues shortly, and is confident that BA will fulfil the needs of MSC Cruises passengers to ensure they reach its ships on time."

A spokeswoman for Carnival Corporation added: "We are monitoring this situation closely and working with our account management team at British Airways. We will be in touch with our customers should it prove necessary." A Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman echoed this in a statement: "NCL is continually monitoring the situation and BA is working to resolve the planned strike. At present there are no cancelled flights and all itineraries are as scheduled."

We'll keep you updated as soon as there is more news tomorrow.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor