BA pilot strikes – the TLFL team’s experience with rebooking & our tips

pilots BA

Hilton APAC

Unless you have been living under a rock the last few days, you will be aware that BALPA, the BA pilots’ union, have announced strike dates in September on 9,10 and 27th. You can find the official BA guidance here. As there has been so much coverage of the strike we decided to take a different angle and report back on our own experiences.

The cash ticket

Qantas First

Paul and I were due to be in Bangkok returning from Singapore to Amsterdam on the first day of the strikes. We were booked into First class on a BA cash ticket. I had thought we may be OK, as previously with the cabin crew strikes the inbound flights at the beginning still operated. This is because there would be crew down route that would effectively be stranded otherwise. This meant the crew would operate flights even on strike days. For some reason, this does not appear to be the case as our flights were cancelled. 

Paul took the helm in rebooking since he is a Gold Guest List and therefore has access to a special phone line. Even with this, we were still on hold a long time just to get through. Paul had already looked through the options and had what he thought was a simple plan. We wanted to fly back in First to London – we could ditch the Amsterdam part if necessary, but Paul needed to be back for business reasons on the day we had booked for. 

Once he got through it was not as simple at it seemed. BA issue a list of allowed carriers for alternative flights to be offered with. This is readily available to view for travel agents. The list includes some oneworld carriers such as JAL, Finnair, Qatar as well as other options eg Aer Lingus for short-haul routes. He was offered Finnair or Qatar business class or JAL First arriving into London 36 hour later with an overnight layover. Eventually, after another phone call and escalating to a manager we finally got rebooked on Qantas with our requested flights. Had we been in economy and not had a GGL on the booking I am not sure we would have had the same outcome. 


Roving ReporterAvios bonus

RR’s case was made more complex by the fact that he had an booking with a Lloyds upgrade voucher. This made things difficult. Again it was his return leg that was on a strike date. Being the later strike date BA have not actually cancelled his flight yet. 

He spoke to Avios as BA insisted that any rebooking was done through them. Avios did not really seem to understand the rules and were insisting that he could only be rebooked onto BA. Initially, they said they would rebook him onto Qatar but then said they were not allowed to. A BA rebooking would not work, as again, he had to be back for work on the dates he had booked. 

RR looked at cancelling, but Avios could not confirm what would happen with his Lloyds voucher initially. RR needed an extension to it or he would now not be able to use it before it expired.  

He is now waiting for Avios to get agreement from BA to rebook him onto Qatar. This would seem to be in disagreement with the guidance BA has offered for the first lot of strikes. 

The current rules for TA state that they can:

  • Rebook onto any alternative British Airways operated flight on the same routing, any date before or after the original up to 355 days ahead(ticket validity may be extended).
  • Rebook into the same class as original or the lowest class available in the same cabin
  • For other carriers, they must be on the approved list and the within the period 3-16 September currently. I suspect this will be extended for the second strike period nearer the date. 
  • Rebooking is allowed on Iberia, AA, Finnair, JAL, Malaysia, Qatar, SAS, Brussels, Egyptair, Precision Air, Cathay Pacific and Etihad. Within Europe Aer Lingus, Air Baltic, Air Atlantic and Vueling are also allowed. 

Our top tips:

  • Do your research beforehand and have an idea of what you want them to do – have flight numbers ready.
  • If you don’t get the answer you want, it can always be worth trying again. The guidance could also change as time goes on.
  • Be prepared to be offered a downgrade and understand whether that is an option you may want to take. 
  • If you need to be somewhere for a specific time – tell them about this

12 Comments on "BA pilot strikes – the TLFL team’s experience with rebooking & our tips"

  1. Andy Hawkins | 27 August 2019 at 8:48 am | Reply

    We’ve been trying to rebook a cancelled flight back from a Faro on 9 September. Two separate Gold line agents have told me that they cannot book us onto Iberia as the Faro to Madrid leg does not have a BA codeshare number. We’re currently resigned to an extra couple of days away, but without reimbursement for extra expenses as we haven’t commenced travel yet.

    • Escalation is your only option. Don’t accept no for an answer.

      Email me if you get nowhere today.

  2. I used a Lloyds upgrade voucher for my flight from Jeddah to LHR on 8 Sept. On rebooking with Avios on Friday morning for my cancelled flight (subsequently un-cancelled), I was offered a flight on 7 Sept. As there were no reward seats left, the agent simply said – not your fault so i will allocate you a cash ticket. 2 mins – all done.

  3. Donald Grant | 27 August 2019 at 9:38 am | Reply

    I was one of the group who received both e-mails – the first telling me my flight was cancelled and one a few hours later telling me that it hadn’t. The cancellation was a surprise as I am flying on the 11th and had been a bit relieved that I had missed the strike by a day. I happened still to be up and about when the ‘cancellation’ e-mail came through shortly after midnight and realised that alternative seats were likely to be at a premium by the next morning. The only flight affected was my first leg from Edinburgh to Heathrow, so I followed the ‘free change’ link and was a bit surprised to find my booked flight as one of the options. Assuming that this was a glitch I tried a variety of earlier Heathrow flights which were offered, but all failed with an unusual error code. In the end the only flight I could change to was a much earlier London City flight and I duly accepted that and changed my car park booking to reflect the earlier departure.

    When the second e-mail arrived the following afternoon, I attempted to reverse the process on-line, but the system now regarded this as chargeable at £330! I then tried for a couple of days to get through on the Silver EC line, but this proved impossible as they were so busy that they had stopped queuing and just gave an ‘unable to connect’ message.

    I will try again when things have calmed down, but now I am left with the wish that I had gone to bed earlier! And with the realisation of the potential benefits of Gold membership.

  4. I have a return repositioning flight booked for the 27th ARN-LHR. Can’t decide if I should sit tight for now in the hope it’s resolved by then, get them to rebook me on another carrier now or have them put me up in a hotel for the night and come back on the 28th but run the risk of there being no flights on the 28th either with metal and crew out of position??

  5. I have a return repositioning flight ARN-LHR on the 27th. Can’t decide if I should:

    A) leave it for now, monitor the situation and hope it’s all resolved by then.

    B) call BA and get them to rebook me onto another carrier now.

    C) Get them to put me up for the night in ARN and fly back on the 28th with the risk of there being no flights with crew & metal out of position??

    What what those at my favourite blog do??

  6. Hi, I am already in the USA, was due to fly back on the 9th. I phoned BA and spent about an hour or so in queue. I’m on an Amex 2-4-1 companion voucher and flew business to class to Seattle. Managed to eventually speak to someone who said there were no business class flights on American Airlines so I would have to downgrade. I said I didn’t want to and they said they would put a request in etc. Just had an email to phone them again but where I am have zero phone reception as in the mountains so will have to wait until later…any suggestions?? Thanks nick

    • I am assuming you have wi-fi if you are picking up emails? I would use Skype. You can use this for normal phone calls but you will need to add a credit of £5. The calls are very cheap – usually around 1p per minute. You can always try to claim the cost of it from BA.

    • Tell them you want to route back via Madrid or Helsinki. Plenty of business class space

      You can use expert flyer or Google flights to help give you ideas.

      Good luck.

  7. After waiting on the GGL line for a while trying to sort my flights to Mauritius, I just gave up and instead stopped by at the service desk en-route to JFK on Monday, a 5 minute call to a back office and with literally no other OW carrier flying to MRU, they rebooked my on AF to Paris and then Air Mauritius for the rest. I’m actually fairly happy about this as it’s an airline I would almost never otherwise fly, a brand new A350 (with what I am certain will be a better experience than the ageing club world on the 777s out of Gatwick) and the original tier points to boot.

Have your say

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.