British Airways pilots are to press for a single pilot corps from which to draw crews for the carrier’s new transatlantic carrier OpenSkies, following concerns that a two-tier crew structure will ultimately be detrimental to both operations.
Representatives from the British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) are set to hold crucial talks with British Airways on 14 January and neither BA nor the union are commenting on the specific issues which will be discussed at the meeting.
But British Airways chief executive Willie Walsh tells ATI: “Nobody has expressed any difficulty with the issue of different terms and conditions.”
He compares the status of OpenSkies to that of other subsidiaries, such as regional operation BA CityFlyer where pilots are also on different terms to BA’s mainline crews, and says the carrier is keen to secure the backing of its pilots.
BA will transfer Boeing 757 aircraft from its mainline fleet and reconfigure them with 82 seats in three classes for OpenSkies. The airline detailed its plans for the carrier yesterday – an announcement which pilots apparently were not expecting.
Sources familiar with the situation claim that BA’s pilots were “surprised” at the carrier’s decision to disclose information about OpenSkies ahead of next week’s talks between the airline and its pilots’ representatives, and that this “hasn’t helped relationships” between the two sides.
ATI understands that crews are not disputing the need for different terms and conditions within OpenSkies and that, as Walsh claims, pilots appreciate that the newly-created carrier will need to have a lower cost base in order to operate profitably.
But pilots believe that BA could split the crew corps to create a separate organisation, and this has left pilots uncertain as to who will be flying OpenSkies aircraft and whether such separation could affect the seniority, promotion and career progression of BA mainline pilots who might wish to switch to the new carrier.
BA has been recruiting externally for OpenSkies, and has yet to determine what proportion of OpenSkies’ pilots will be sourced from mainline crews.
There is concern among pilots that the nature of OpenSkies might result in less-experienced crews operating the new services, putting the BA brand at risk, and even that OpenSkies’ remuneration could eventually drag down pay scales at BA mainline.
BA is intending to begin OpenSkies services in June with the first 757 aircraft operating either on the New York-Paris Charles de Gaulle or New York-Brussels route.
Source: flightglobal.com's sister premium news site Air Transport Intelligence news