Middle East travel trade supportive of BA during strikes

Guest Writer

The Middle East trade has been “immensely supportive” of British Airways during recent cabin crew strike action, the airline’s Area Commercial Manager Middle East, Paolo De Renzis, had told TDME.In return, travel agents and TMCs were provided with transparent up-to-date information on flight schedules, cancellations and alterations during periods of industrial action, he said.In the Middle East, BA cancelled limited flights in Bahrain, Dubai and Doha on certain strike dates. Flights from Abu Dhabi, Muscat, Riyadh, Jeddah and Kuwait operated as normal.”We have a complex global operation which has to co-ordinate the rosters of over 13,000 cabin crew, 3000 pilots and 230 aircraft which all need to be in the right place at the right time across 150 destinations in more than 70 countries,” said De Renzis.”The strike has impacted these factors. However, the determination of our colleagues across the whole business to keep the flag flying has enabled us to fly well over 80% of customers who were originally booked to fly during the strike period.”He said BA would continue to roll out travel trade updates and initiatives in the Middle East via its dedicated account managers and call centres (including one operating 24 hours a day in the UAE).In a bid to further enhance agent selling skills, improve technical training where needed and to better explain online tools for the trade to simplify the customer travel experience, BA hoped to conduct online training courses in the future.”All of this is done in a transparent environment, whereby all offers are available to the trade for selling through their own systems,” De Renzis reminded agents.Disputes between BA and cabin crew union Unite are still ongoing, however, the airline has stressed it continued to put first the interests of its customers and explored all options available to keep them flying, which included obtaining seats on other carriers, wet-leasing aircraft and using substitute cabin crew.”We proactively contacted customers whose flights have been affected, and either rebooked their flight for future dates, rerouted the journey, booked on other airlines or refunded the cost of the ticket,” said a BA statement.In a message to customers, BA CEO Willie Walsh said:I want to thank the many thousands of our customers who have shown their patience and support by flying with us during Unite’s industrial action.We have flown well over 80% of the customers who were originally booked for travel in the strike period. And we were able to rebook most of the rest on to British Airways flights on other dates or on to other carriers.Inevitably there have been some disappointments, and I am deeply sorry for those customers whose plans have been disrupted.We have seen a fantastic effort by dedicated staff across British Airways to keep the flag flying. I particularly want to thank our regular cabin crew – more than 60 percent have ignored the strike call and turned up to serve our customers alongside our volunteers.Unite has failed to ground British Airways. We have put a fair and sensible offer to the union, and I hope it will now allow its members to vote on it.Let us work together to create an airline that can invest in better services for our customers and provide long-term opportunities for all our staff. An airline that is great. An airline for the future.”

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