The CAA and UK Government Transport Secretary have approved British Airways request to wet lease 9 Qatar Airways A320 and A321 aircraft to cover part of their flying programme during cabin crew industrial action that begins tomorrow.
Mixed fleet cabin crew at Heathrow (cabin crew joining since 2010) have been in a long running dispute with the company over pay and although it had been reported the pay dispute had been resolved, the cabin crew union Unite are protesting over the non-returning of other staff benefits such as staff travel, which BA removed from striking employees.
The union has balloted members and announced a 2 week strike period beginning tomorrow, this is much longer than the previous strike periods and will cause more disruption for British Airways who have so far had a difficult year after a previous IT system outage.
Due to BA wet-leasing from a non-EU airline approval was required from the CAA (UK aviation regulator) and the Transport Secretary. This approval was received today and the aircraft were launched from their base in Doha, Qatar today complete with crews to be stationed in London for 2 weeks.
Unite have criticised the decision to grant approval citing concerns over Qatar’s human rights and labour standards record.
British Airways have stated that 99.5% of their flight schedule will continue to operate, but it is understood that even if this achievable there will be a large wet lease bill for the airline to pick up.