British Airways pilots have begun a two-day strike in an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.
Tens of thousands of passengers have been told not to go to airports, with the airline cancelling some 1,700 flights due to the disruption.
The pilots’ union Balpa said BA management’s cost-cuts and “dumbing down” of the brand had eroded confidence in the airline.
But BA chief Alex Cruz said investment in the operator had never been so big.
Both sides say they are willing to hold further talks, but no date has been set. The pilots are currently scheduled to stage another strike on 27 September.
Balpa’s general secretary, Brian Strutton, said: “It is time to get back to the negotiating table and put together a serious offer that will end this dispute.”
But he told the BBC that while BA says publicly it is willing to talk, “in private they say they are not going to negotiate”. And although the headline dispute is about pay, he said there was also deep resentment about the airline’s direction.
“BA has lost the trust and confidence of pilots because of cost-cutting and the dumbing down of the brand… management want to squeeze every last penny out of customers and staff,” Mr Strutton said.
On a Monday morning, Terminal 5 would normally be bustling with people, jetting off on holiday or business trips. Today, it seems more like a ghost town. The staff far outnumber the handful of passengers. Those affected had been warned not to come to the airport.
The departure board shows only 10 flights leaving for the entire day. The cafes are pretty much deserted too, and the taxi rank has been growing in size, with no passengers to pick up. The strike here is clearly having a big effect.
Mr Cruz defended the airline against Mr Strutton’s claim, saying it had never in its history embarked on such a big investment programme in services and training. He said the airline was “ready and willing” to return to talks with Balpa.
It is the first time BA pilots have walked out and the action could cost the airline up to £40m a day. Some 4,000 pilots are involved in the strike.
In a statement, BA said: “We understand the frustration and disruption Balpa’s strike action has caused our customers. After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this.
“Unfortunately, with no detail from Balpa on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100% of our flights.”