The British Air Line Pilots Association (BALPA) used a high-profile UK radio programme to fire shots across the bow of British Airways as it prepares to launch a subsidiary with bases at most of the main hubs in continental Europe to serve US East Coast destinations.

Although BALPA general secretary Jim McAuslan said on the BBC's Today programme that the association welcomes the expansion of BA's operations into European bases, he also warned that the company's pilots are concerned about the effect of different contractual terms and conditions emerging within the BA group.

The airline referred to as "Project Lauren" will be a wholly owned BA subsidiary operating Boeing 757s. BALPA has since restated that the main issues are contractual and pilot seniority list concerns. BA has advertised in Flight International,'s sister publication, for pilots to staff the venture.

Sources close to the airline say pilots are worried that the new venture, set to go operational in mid-2008, could turn out to be "a Trojan horse" that could ultimately affect pilot pay and conditions at the carrier's UK bases. BA says it is not bent on de-unionisation in the new subsidiary, whose pilots would "be based in western Europe".