British Airways has agreed to a provisional pay settlement with its pilots, heading off the threat of Christmas disruption and bringing to an end one of the most damaging disputes in its history.
The pilots union, Balpa, has recommended a deal worth 12% over three years to its members, more than a year after talks started and following strikes in September that cost the airline tens of millions of pounds a day.
Pilots will still have to vote to accept the deal, which includes guarantees underpinning pay rises to inflation but does not have the profit-sharing scheme they had demanded, according to an email seen by the Financial Times.
The deal also offers improvements to working conditions, including rosters.
Balpa’s general secretary, Brian Strutton, said: “We can confirm that Balpa, BA and Acas have put together a new pay and conditions proposal and, subject to final checks, Balpa expects it will shortly be consulting its 4,000 BA members on them.”
The apparent breakthrough comes after thinly veiled criticism of BA’s management of the strikes from Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA’s parent company, IAG.
He said last month there was a “deal to be done”, adding that he “probably understood [pilots’] issues better” than BA’s current boss, Álex Cruz.
The pilots voted by more than 90% to take industrial action in the original ballot, whose mandate was due to expire in January, so acceptance of the new deal brokered through the conciliation service Acas is far from guaranteed.
However, BA said: “We welcome this positive step.”
The strikes in September were the first by pilots in the airline’s history, and led to 2,325 flight cancellations, with other losses due to rebookings bringing the total estimated net financial impact to €137m (£121m), according to IAG.
The news will come as a relief to BA, which has suffered another public relations setback this week, after another technical failure – thought to be in its computerised check-in system – led to delays for thousands of passengers on return long-haul flights, some by more than 24 hours.