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British Airways reassures travellers they will reach destinations during strike

British Airways customers will be able to fly to their destinations during a 48-hour strike by cabin crew next week although a small number of flights will be "merged", the airline announced.

Members of the Unite union will walk out on Tuesday and Wednesday in a dispute over pay.

BA said all flights to and from Gatwick and London City airports will operate as normal.

The vast majority of flights to and from London Heathrow will operate as normal.

"As part of our contingency plan, we will be merging a very small number of flights to and from Heathrow. This will mean some customers will travel slightly earlier or later in the day than their original booking," said a statement.

Unite says members of the so-called mixed fleet cabin crew who joined BA in recent years are on lower pay than other staff.

BA said customers affected are being contacted with the options available for them.

It added: "We look forward to welcoming more than 200,000 customers on to our flights across the two days and ensuring they can all proceed with their holiday breaks, visits to friends and family or business meetings.

"Customers can book flights as normal through ba.com.

"We urge Unite to abandon its strike plans which are serving only to cause anxiety among our mixed fleet cabin crew colleagues who do a tremendous job for our customers.

"We continue to be available for further dialogue with Unite."

Unite said since 2010 all British Airways new cabin crew employees joined mixed fleet, with basic pay starting at £12,192, plus £3 an hour "flying pay".

The union said, on average, mixed fleet cabin crew earn £16,000, including allowances, a year.

"These poverty pay levels for cabin crew are below the living wage and are among the lowest in the industry, putting the UK's national carrier to shame," said a statement.

Unite said an original multi-year pay offer of 2% in year one and 2.5% in years two and three was rejected by 93%, saying the proposed deal was worth less than £20 extra a month after tax.

The union said a recent survey showed almost half of mixed fleet cabin crew had taken on a second job to make ends meet with some saying they had to sleep in their cars between shifts because they could not afford the petrol to drive home.

Two thirds admitted to going to work unfit to fly because they could not afford to be off sick.

Strikes planned for Christmas Day and Boxing Day were called off after talks at the conciliation service Acas, but Unite said while an improved offer was made, it was not backdated and did not go far enough in addressing members' concerns.

BA said it had carried out an audit because there had been a great deal of confusion over levels of pay for mixed fleet cabin crew.

"The pay data shows that the range of earnings paid out to full-time mixed fleet crew between September 2015 and August 2016 was £21,151- £27,356. We have offered the audit to the union so that they can confirm the details.

"Our proposal for our mixed fleet cabin crew reflects pay awards given by other companies in the UK and will ensure their reward levels remain in line with cabin crew at our airline competitors. It is also consistent with pay deals agreed with Unite for other British Airways colleagues," said a spokesman.

Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: "Next week's strike action is not a step our members are taking lightly, but they are at breaking point over levels of poverty pay which is forcing many of them to take a second job and turn up to work unfit to fly.

"We would urge British Airways to listen to its mixed fleet cabin crew, who work tirelessly to serve passengers and contribute massively to the success of the airline.

"With the parent company of British Airways forecasting annual profits in the region of £2.3 billion, it's clear that the UK's national carrier can pay the people who keep us safe while we fly a decent wage."

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