LONDON – British Airways said Thursday said that it is canceling all flights from London Heathrow airport for two days next week because of a strike by cabin crew.
The airline said, however, that it still hoped to reach an agreement with the Transport and General Workers union to prevent a 48-hour walkout on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"If we postponed the cancellation of flights until the eve of a strike, customers would have virtually no time to make alternative arrangements," said Willie Walsh, the airline's chief executive.
"We remain absolutely determined to search for a negotiated settlement and our door remains open to the T&G, day or night."
Talks broke off early Thursday, with each side saying it had made proposals to settle disputes on pay and sick leave policy and each blaming the other for the failure to reach agreement.
The Transport and General Workers Union has set walkouts for Jan. 30 and 31; Feb. 5-7 and Feb. 12-14.
The union, which represents about 11,000 of the airline's 14,000 cabin crew, said it had reduced its strike plans for next week from three days to two as a goodwill gesture.
"The company has failed to hear the voice of common sense. This is a sad day for passengers and cabin crew alike," said Jack Dromey, deputy secretary-general of the union.
Walsh said the union didn't respond positively to management's proposals.
"We have accepted the T&G's proposal to improve the application of the absence management policy. We have put forward a solution on pay as part of our upcoming wage round. The T&G has rejected our position out of hand," Walsh said.
He added that next week's strike would "wreck the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of customers."
British Airways shares fell 1.1 percent to 530.75 pence ($10.49) on the London Stock Exchange.