As British Airways celebrated its 100th birthday at the weekend, passengers were venting their fury at the airline’s handling of a planned walkout by pilots next month.

Customers on Sunday were still struggling to contact the airline as they sought to rebook their cancelled flights. Some other passengers, meanwhile, received an email in error telling them that their flights scheduled for non-strike days had been cancelled.

A Twitter user named @SusanSeenan tweeted: “I’ve been trying since Fri night. At least I’ve now got as far as being on hold . . . for the last hour.”

Another user, @Vanessa75594465, tweeted: “2 days solid of trying to contact you by phone — totally unacceptable!! How am I supposed to change my flight when I can’t change it online either??”

Members of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, Balpa, which represents a majority of BA’s pilots, confirmed on Friday that it plans to walk out on September 9, 10 and 27 after pay talks between the union and Britain’s flag carrier broke down.

38,000


Calls received by BA in the 24 hours after strike announced

BA also apologised after it admitted that some passengers were mistakenly told by email that their flights scheduled on non-strike days had been cancelled.

One BA customer, @Michael33848040, said he had attempted to contact the airline 40 times: “Is this your idea of customer service flight’s not even on a strike day !!!!!”

The airline has not confirmed how many customers were wrongly sent the email but said those customers affected by the error were emailed within a few hours to clarify that their flights would go ahead as planned.

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It added: “We would encourage anyone who has incurred any expenses as a direct result to get in touch, and we will deal with each case on an individual basis.”

In the 24 hours after the strike was announced, BA received 38,000 calls and 33,000 tweets from customers asking for help. BA said that while its customer service phone lines were busy, its website was working fine.

Additional staff were deployed over the weekend to help customers, the airline said, while contact centres stayed open round the clock to help resolve issues.

BA added that its teams “have been working tirelessly to help as many of our customers as possible, in these unprecedented circumstances”.

The airline said it was making changes to its schedule but warned that it was likely that many of its customers would not be able to travel. It said it would offer refunds and alternative flights for passengers booked on cancelled flights.

BA said it was exploring options to supplement its fleet with aircraft and crew from other airlines, a practice known as wet-leasing. It was also working with partner airlines to schedule larger aircraft to take more customers.

Last month, members of Balpa voted 9-1 in favour of strike action, on a 90 per cent turnout. BA subsequently failed in its attempt to block mass walkouts through a court injunction.

Balpa said the decision to go on strike was a “last resort” and had been taken with “enormous frustration at the way business is now being run”.

BA said its pay offer of 11.5 per cent over three years was fair and highlighted that the Unite and GMB trade unions, which represent nearly 90 per cent of all BA workers, had recommended the same pay offer to their members.

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