A strike by British Airways cabin crew enters its fourth day today after the latest talks between airline and union bosses failed to break the deadlock in a bitter row over pay and conditions.
Chief executive Willie Walsh met with the joint leaders of the Unite union, Tony Woodley and Derek Simpson, for six hours yesterday before calling it a day at around 10pm.
It is believed they will resume negotiations tomorrow. The strike will also continue tomorrow unless a deal can be agreed.
The row has caused travel problems for thousands of passengers.
The location of the talks was kept secret following the dramatic scenes last weekend when members of the Socialist Workers Party invaded the building where the two sides were meeting, forcing the talks to be abandoned.
The union is planning two further five-day walkouts in the coming weeks which will cost the airline tens of millions of pounds.
As news of the talks was disclosed, BA said it would be increasing its flying schedule during the next five-day strike, due to start on Sunday, a day after the current walkouts are due to end.
The airline said more cabin crew than expected had decided to work as normal during this week’s industrial action, and it was contacting customers to give them as much notice as possible about their travel plans.
BA said it would be increasing its Heathrow long-haul schedule to more than 70% of flights (up from more than 60% this week), and its short-haul schedule from the airport to more than 55% of flights (up from more than 50% this week).
The airline said it would continue to fly to every short-haul destination on its network.
“Due to the numbers of crew wanting to work normally at Gatwick, all flights will continue to operate as scheduled during the very busy half-term break as families fly out to many popular holiday destinations. Flights at London City airport will also operate as normal.
“At this stage British Airways expects to fly more than 75% of customers who hold a booking between May 30 and June 3. This equates to around 65,000 customers flying each day.
“Many thousands more will be able to use seats we have secured on more than 50 other airlines to reach their destination, if they still wish to travel or be rebooked on to an alternative BA flight departing within the next 355 days.
“Refunds are also available for customers whose flights have been cancelled.
“The airline will continue to lease up to eight aircraft from other UK or European airlines to supplement its short-haul schedule at Heathrow,” said BA.
The talks were being held under the auspices of the conciliation service Acas.
Earlier, Mr Woodley repeated his offer to suspend the strikes if BA restored travel concessions to staff who have been on strike.
He said he hoped the two sides could pick up the momentum they achieved during the talks on Saturday before they ended in disarray after the activists managed to get into the building in central London and surround BA chief executive Willie Walsh.
Mr Woodley complained about disciplinary action taken against cabin crew, saying he had met one long-serving female member of staff who had been suspended for five months.
An agreement also had to be finalised on completely different terms and conditions for crew in a new fleet being introduced by BA, which would see some staff on half the pay of current rates, he said.
BA has written to Unite warning its legal battle against the stoppages would “come to a full court case in due course”, and for its officials to keep all relevant paperwork ahead of “pending court cases”.
The union successfully overturned an injunction blocking the strike last week, ushering in the first of three five-day strikes on Monday which have disrupted travel plans for thousands of passengers.
A spokesman for BA said: “We are not appealing the court’s decision. The union would have been fully aware that the point of law over the communication of the strike ballot result would come to a full court case in due course.
“We have written to Unite to remind them to retain relevant paperwork. This is standard legal procedure for all pending court cases.”