Travellers face airline disruption

Anxious travellers were eyeing their air tickets as Lufthansa was hit by a strike and British Airways appears likely to face one.

Anxious travellers were eyeing their air tickets yesterday as one major European airline was hit by a strike and another appears likely to face one. More than 12,000 cabin crew at British Airways voted 80 per cent in favour of a strike last night due to staff cutbacks. Pilots at the German airline Lufthansa also began a four-day strike to fight for increased salary and job security, as well as more control over the airline's relationship with non-unionised international subsidiaries.

A strike could affect BA as early as March 1. The workers are expected to decide on the dates of any strike later this week. The airline operates daily flights from Abu Dhabi and Dubai to London and Muscat. A strike could affect hundreds of local travellers. BA's crew tried to stage a 12-day strike over the Christmas holidays but were blocked by a legal injunction in Britain. However, fears of a strike caused major inconvenience and disruption to holiday travellers.

Some potential travellers were unimpressed with the possibility of a BA strike. "The strike is really ridiculous, as a general rule people are choosing other airlines if possible anyway," said Rowan Bell, 30, who works in Abu Dhabi. "BA used to be a really good airline and over the last few years it's become generally accepted that they're not anymore." Unite, the crew's union, has demanded the airline return to staffing levels in place before thousands of long-haul crew members were laid off or became part-time workers last year. Like most major airlines, BA has been badly hit by the global financial crisis and is trying to trim US$196 million (Dh719m) from its costs.

To cope with its financial woes, the airline plans to reduce the number of flight attendants on many of its long-haul flights to 14 from 15. A BA spokeswoman said: "The outcome of Unite's ballot is very disappointing and brings a renewed threat of industrial action, which is completely unjustified. We will not allow Unite to ruin this company. Should a strike take place, we will do everything we can to protect our customers' travel plans as far as possible."