Yesterday Unite The Union, the trade union representing British Airways’ cabin crew, began the first stage of a two-part seven-day strike against the airline. While I am not going to delve into the politics of the strike, I do want to address the significant misinformation and massively factually incorrect press releases issued by Unite The Union.
Early in the day many of the press statements did not correlate with the on-the-ground reports I was receiving from travelers, plane spotters and other unbiased and independent sources. I understand that both British Airways and Unite The Union must try and win the battle of public perception, but rather than trust press releases from either party I spent the day fact checking.
Why am I not breaking down the statements from British Airways? All of their statements regarding operations during the start of the strike have proven to be factual … so … the following is a point-by-point break down of Unite The Union’s press releases yesterday morning, Saturday the 20th of March:
- Unite The Union Release: British Airways has managed to fly only one third of its normal scheduled departures
- BA Strike Fact: British Airways publicly stated it would be operating 65% of its regularly scheduled flights during the strike a week prior to the strike. British Airways actually exceeded its estimates of 65% by reinstating more than 20 flights when more cabin crew than expected reported for duty.
- United The Union Release: BA’s flagship terminal T5 is a ghost town as passengers stay away
- BA Strike Fact: By all reported by witnesses on the ground, Heathrow Terminal 5 was very active. Passengers activity may have been a bit lighter than usual, however the first day of the strike was a Saturday and some people has swapped flights t avoid the strike, however by all independent eye witness reports T5 was busy.
- Unite The Union Release: The first long haul BA flight out (10am) was to Abu Dhabi
- BA Strike Fact: The first British Airways long haul flight to depart was in fact flight BA 117 to New York’s JFK at 8:20am. It departed on-time.
- Unite The Union Release: From 12.20pm until 2.30pm only 10 flights departed from Heathrow, normally there would be 50 during the same period
- BA Strike Fact: Between 12:20pm and 2:30pm the departure board from BAA’s London Heathrow Airport shows that 34 British Airways flights pushed back and departed the airport.
- Unite The Union Release: 20 more planes had been moved to Cardiff to be parked, and a further 20 flown to Shannon, in western Ireland, to sit out the strike
- BA Strike Fact: British Airways positioned and parked no aircraft at either Cardiff or Shannon.
- Unite The Union Release: By 2pm, only one flight to JFK airport had departed – normally there are five
- BA Strike Fact: Three British Airways flights from London Heathrow to New York’s JFK had departed before 2:00pm. BA 117 departed on-time at 8:20am; BA 175 departed 17 minutes late at 11:00am; BA 177 departed onetime at 1:35pm. Later in the day BA 115 departed on-time at 4:00pm and BA 179 departed on-time at 5:55pm. Additionally, British Airways
- Unite The Union Release: At Gatwick, one third of flights have failed to take off
- BA Strike Fact: British Airways operated well above 66% of its London Gatwick flights. Independent reports verify that crews staffing at Gatwick were at expected levels.
It is worth nothing that yesterday during the strike various independent sources verified that 52.5% of British Airways’ Heathrow based cabin crews had reported for duty, as well as 97% of Gatwick’s cabin crew personnel. In various press statements Unite The Union has stated that 80% of its members were supporting the strike and not reporting to duty. The numbers issued by Unite, even in comparison to non-union cabin crews working during the strike, do not add up to 80% of its union members supporting the strike.
While I am not taking any sides in this labour dispute, I am choosing to side with factual and verifiable truth. Should Unite The Union seek the support of the public, the politicians and its members, it might want to start checking its facts before issuing public releases.
Below are two photos of the British Airways departures and arrivals board from London Heathrow Airport yesterday. These photos are courtesy of Carter Stewart.