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Travellers advised to ‘wait and see’ over BA strike

By Victoria O’Hara

Holidaymakers from Northern Ireland who fear they may be caught up in disruption caused by BA cabin crew strike action have been advised to “wait and see”.

The advice comes from ABTA, the largest travel association in the UK, after BA workers backed a ballot for industrial action.

While BA has no direct flights from Northern Ireland many people who get connecting flights from the province to BA in London for ongoing travel could be among thousands of people affected. The airline has around 650 daily flights to more than 140 destinations.

Members of the Unite union yesterday voted overwhelmingly to take action in a row over jobs, pay and working conditions.

It said 7,482 of its members voted in favour of action, with 1,789 voting against.

The vote was below a 9-1 ballot result last year.

But an ABTA spokesman for Northern Ireland said people should not yet panic.

“At this stage it would be definitely wait and see,” the spokesman said.

“Over Christmas, for example, people were extremely worried but the strike didn’t happen.

“I know that this is different circumstances, but just in our experience very few strikes actually go ahead. Negotiations will happen and the strike is called off — that is our experience of strikes as a trade association.”

No dates have been earmarked for strike action but the union said these would not take place during the Easter holidays.

The union must give a week's notice if it plans to take action — meaning strikes could begin from the first week of March.

A mass meeting of Unite workers is expected to be held on Thursday when strike dates are expected set to be announced.

ABTA members provide 90% of the foreign package holidays in the UK as well as selling millions of independent travel arrangements.

An ABTA NI spokesman added: “At the very least, if the strike does go ahead, you will get your money back.

“If you booked a package holiday you would actually be provided with another holiday — that is what an operator would try and do — and get you an alternative airline.

“Also they have said they won’t strike over Easter, which is obviously good news because it is one of the most busiest times of the year.”

“It is not a nice position to be in, but we would advise customers to wait and see,” he added.

The airline's bosses have also said they are determined to ‘keep BA flying' throughout any dispute with a skeleton staff.

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