20100322 ba flight attendants strike 97915932 18
A Unite union picket supports a three-day strike of British Airways cabin crews outside London's Heathrow Airport -- March 21, 2010. - 


Steve Chiotakis: If you're flying British Airways today, security screening is the least of your concerns. Thousands of passengers face delays and cancellations after a strike by flight attendants. They're angry over pay and staffing levels. And as Marketplace's Stephen Beard reports from London, fewer planes in the air means the accusations have gone airborne.

Stephen Beard: The fog of war has descended on the dispute, with the two sides making contradictory claims. The union says its action had a crippling effect; only nine cabin crews turned up at Heathrow yesterday. British Airways says that's nonsense; they say around 600 flight attendants reported for duty.

The union argues BA is flying a skeleton service with near empty planes. Yesterday's flight to Miami was only 20 percent full; 3 out of the 6 flights to New York's JFK were cancelled.

But BA's boss, Willie Walsh, in a recorded statement on YouTube, claimed he was beating the strike:

Willie Walsh: We promised we would keep BA flying. That's exactly what we've done. I'm delighted that so many people in British Airways have come together to make sure that we keep the flag flying.

He says the airline is still flying 49,000 passengers a day -- 60 percent of the usual traffic. But BA faces more turmoil at the end of this week with the start of a further four-day strike.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.