BA to use Qatar planes during crew strike

British carrier will lease 9 planes with crew to fly passengers for next 2 weeks

BRUSSELS • British Airways (BA) will use Qatar Airways planes and crew to fly all its passengers to their destinations during a planned two-week strike by some cabin crew, said British Airways' parent company chief Willie Walsh.

The strike by BA's mixed-fleet cabin crew - those who work on both long- and short-haul flights - is due to begin today.

BA had already applied to Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to use nine Qatar-registered Airbus A320s or A321s between today and July 16. Mr Walsh, chief executive of International Consolidated Airlines Group, said the plan would go ahead.

"I'll be pleased to say that those airplanes will fly and all of the British Airways passengers who are booked to fly with us over the next couple of weeks will be flying," Mr Walsh told reporters in Brussels on Thursday when asked if the application to use the planes had been successful.

Members of the mixed-fleet crew are engaged in a long-running dispute with BA about pay. The strike is over sanctions on union members involved in previous industrial action.

BA had previously guaranteed that all customers would reach their destinations, although some flights will be merged.

The CAA would not confirm that BA's application had been approved and said it was still processing it.

"Under European regulations, specific approval is required for an EU (European Union) airline, such as British Airways, to wet lease aircraft from an airline based outside of Europe," a spokesman for the CAA said in a statement.

"The UK Department for Transport will approve or reject the application taking into account advice from the Civil Aviation Authority."

A wet-leasing deal would mean that BA pays Qatar to use its aircraft and crew for the two-week period.

The deal could help Qatar make more use of its planes after its operations were disrupted by a boycott from four Arab nations, forcing it to seek out other destinations on which to use its planes.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 in the worst diplomatic crisis in the region in years.

BA and Qatar Airways have close ties. Both are partners in the OneWorld alliance and code-share on certain flights, while the Doha-based carrier owns a 20 per cent stake in BA parent company International Consolidated Airlines Group.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 01, 2017, with the headline 'BA to use Qatar planes during crew strike'. Print Edition | Subscribe