British Airways’ Pilot Strike Gets Under Way

The first day of strikes by British Airways pilots has got off to a pretty miserable start. The airline has had to cancel almost all of its flights. This morning just 24 British Airways operated flights were in the skies, most having departed before the strike started.

British Airways, Pilot Strike, Cancelled Flights
Almost all British Airways flights today are cancelled. Photo: Tom Boon – Simple Flying

In July British Airways pilots belonging to the BALPA pilots union voted to go on strike. The action is due to a row over pay, despite British Airways offering pilots an 11.5% pay rise across the course of three years. As such, BALPA had announced three days of strikes across September.

Almost all flights cancelled

Unfortunately, due to a lack of information from BALPA, almost all British Airways flights today have been cancelled. As each aircraft type requires a special pilot rating, not every pilot can fly every aircraft. Additionally, British Airways was not told by BALPA what portion of each pilot pool would turn up for work today. According to, 74% of all Heathrow departures have been cancelled.

British Airways, Pilot Strike, Cancelled Flights
74% of Heathrow departures across all airlines have been cancelled. Source:

Let us take the Airbus A380 fleet for example. The British flag carrier has 12 Airbus A380 aircraft. Today, British Airways had no way of knowing whether all of its Airbus A380 pilots would turn up, or whether it would have none at all. This same problem runs across the entire fleet. For example, if all of the airline’s A380 pilots did turn up, the airline wouldn’t be able to use these pilots to fly a Boeing 747.

Very few flights airborne

At 08:45 this morning, there were just 24 British Airways flights airborne. This figure had dropped to 13 by 10:30. These were all long-haul, with most taking off before the strike started. However, two of the flights utilised wet-leased aircraft.

British Airways is using Evelop’s Airbus A330 to operate between London and New York, keeping one of the airline’s most important and lucrative routes open. Additionally, one of Air Belgium’s Airbus A340s is currently flying from Cairo to London. However, the A340 may be wet-leased to cover grounded Boeing 787 aircraft, and not to cover the strike.

British Airways, Pilot Strike, Flights Cancelled
At 08:45, only 24 British Airways flights were airborne. Photo:

Misery to continue

The misery of the strikes is likely to continue for the next couple of days. Tomorrow, 10th of September, is another full strike day. As such, almost all flights will be cancelled again.

However, there is also likely to be some disruption as service is recovered on Wednesday. British Airways cannot park all of its aircraft in London; the airline simply hasn’t the room. At any one time, a huge number of aircraft are usually in the air or at a destination.

This means that many aircraft are displaced across the globe. For example, only three of the airline’s A380s are currently in London. Additionally, some have been ferried to other airports for storage over the next couple of days.

British Airways, Pilot Strike, Flights Cancelled
When British Airways pilots return to the cockpit, service won’t instantly recover. Photo: British Airways

British Airways statement

Simple Flying contacted British Airways. An airline spokesperson told us,

“We understand the frustration and disruption BALPA’s strike action has caused our customers. After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this. We remain ready and willing to return to talks with BALPA.”

They went on to add: “Unfortunately, with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100 per cent our flights.”

Have you been affected by the British Airways pilot strike? Let us know in the comments.