British Airways Resumes Normal Operation
LONDON – British Airways (search) resumed all scheduled domestic and European flights Monday and said fewer than 200 passengers remained stranded after last week's ground-crew walkout disrupted the travel plans of some 100,000 fliers.
The airline was operating all of its British and European flights and 95 percent of long-distance flights Monday, said spokesman Tony Cane (search).
"We're returning to normal," he said.
The walkout, which ended Friday, struck during the peak of the summer travel season, stranding some passengers for more than four days. About 200 passengers were still waiting Monday morning, having spent Sunday night in airport hotels to be rebooked onto flights, BA said.
The strike was triggered by a dispute between catering staff and the catering firm Gate Gourmet (search), which provides onboard meals for BA flights.
More than 660 Gate Gourmet staff — the bulk of the company's work force — were fired last week after an unofficial strike. BA baggage handlers and loaders represented by the same union as the catering employees — the Transport and General Workers' Union — stopped work in sympathy with the fired workers.
While the 1,000 BA ground-crew staff returned to work Friday, talks pressed on Monday between Gate Gourmet and catering workers to resolve the dispute. Gate Gourmet, which is undertaking restructuring amid financial losses, is owned by the Fort Worth, Texas, company Texas Pacific Group.
Britain's Daily Mirror newspaper reported Monday that it had obtained a Gate Gourmet memo outlining a 15-week plan to provoke the current employees into striking so they could be dismissed and replaced with lower-paid workers from Eastern European countries such as new European Union-member Poland.
"Announce intention to trade union, provoking unofficial industrial action from staff. Dismiss current work force. Replace with new staff," the memo said, according to the newspaper.
Gate Gourmet acknowledged the memo but said in a statement that it was drafted by managers who are no longer with the company. "Current management ignored the plan and its recommendations, considering them as highly inappropriate and undesirable," the company said.
Meanwhile, British Airways continued Monday to warn travelers that its flights would be operating with only limited catering facilities so travelers on longer flights would be provided with meal vouchers before boarding.
The airline also said it had significantly whittled down the vast amount of stranded luggage — 30,000 pieces at the height of the disruption. "We are working to reunite displaced bags with passengers, and hope those will go out to their owners within the next two days," Cane said.
This is the third consecutive year that BA has suffered a disruption at the height of the summer holiday season. Analysts warned the airline faced losses of up to $73 million from the latest dispute.