British Airways has reported record losses of £531m as it finalised contingency plans to deal with the first of a wave of fresh strikes in its bitter dispute with cabin crew.
The airline has been battered by the recession, a harsh winter and seven days of strikes in March, although its slide into the red was slightly less than the £600m feared.
BA's total losses for the past two years soared to £932m after a £401m reverse the previous year, although it said market conditions were showing improvement and was expecting to break even this year following the heavy losses.
The airline reported that revenues plunged by £1bn, although this was offset by falling fuel costs as well as savings elsewhere in the business. Chief executive Willie Walsh accused the cabin crew union Unite of being “out of touch with reality” as hopes of finding a last-minute deal faded.
Unite countered that there was an atmosphere of “intimidation and fear” at the company as a result of the long-running row over cost-cutting.
Mr Walsh pledged to run an increased level of services during 15 days of strikes, starting with a five-day walkout from Monday, with the help of an increasing number of volunteer staff who have come forward to stand in for those on strike.
BA, which said the first wave of strikes cost it £43m, could face a £100m bill from the next action.