The European Court of Justice today ruled that British Airways should base its pilots' holiday pay on overall earnings and not just on basic pay.

The general secretary of the British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) Jim McAuslan said: "This is a major victory for all pilots in the UK, not just the 3,000 British Airways pilots who had their claims heard by the European Court of Justice."

McAuslan said it had been a long battle, and that the airline will owe its pilots about £20 million ($31.7 million) in holiday back-pay, explaining: "British Airways and other UK airlines opposed us but, after a six-year legal battle, the European Court of Justice finally agreed with us. Based on this BA judgment, BALPA will be seeking to agree similar holiday pay arrangements for pilots in other UK airlines."

Under the European Civil Aviation (Working Time) Regulations, introduced for UK pilots and cabin crew in April 2004, employees are entitled to a minimum of four weeks paid leave per year. BALPA has successfully argued that, under these regulations, the definition of holiday pay should not be restricted to basic salary only, particularly because pilots' and cabin crews' actual pay is based heavily on an hourly flying pay rate.

BALPA said it has lodged similar Employment Tribunal claims on behalf of EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic, BMI, BMIbaby, BMI Regional, Flybe and BA CityFlyer. These claims have been held awaiting the outcome of the BA case.

The estimated average value of the holiday pay claim in BA, according to BALPA, is between £500 and £600 per year for each pilot going back to January 2006. BALPA has estimated that the total retrospective value of all UK pilot holiday pay claims is over £20 million, and reckons the total retrospective value of all UK aviation "mobile worker" holiday pay claims (including cabin crew) is more than £50 million.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news