Skift Take

Most passengers would love it if British Airways could keep flying a full schedule even while many of its flight attendants are on strike. But will regulators let British Airways wet-lease nine planes registered in Qatar?

With some of its cabin crew members preparing to strike next month for roughly two weeks, over pay and benefits, British Airways is considering temporarily leasing short-haul aircraft registered in Qatar to fly some of its routes, according to a new filing.

The UK’s aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, said Thursday that British Airways has requested to wet-lease nine Qatar-registered Airbus A320s and A321s from July 2 through July 16 — coinciding with the proposed strike. The regulator said British Airways also wanted sought to use the aircraft “for additional periods, yet to be defined, for a maximum of two months.”

The aviation authority said British Airways wanted to continue serving passengers while short-staffed. “The application has been made on the grounds that the lease is justified on the basis of exceptional needs,” the regulator said.

In a wet-lease arrangement, the airline that needs the flights — in this case British Airways — sells tickets as normal, but the aircraft’s usual operator provides flight attendants and pilots.

While this filing is unusual, it does not mean the Qatar-registered jets will fly from London. It is still early, and the regulator said the public will have 10 working days to make comments.

A British Airways spokeswoman said the airline had no update on the Qatar situation, but confirmed it had been looking into other ways to transport passengers.

“We intend to fly all our customers to their destinations,” she said in a statement. “We are currently putting [in place] contingency plans, and information for customers who have bookings on the days of threatened industrial action will be published in the coming days.”

The filing did not say what airline the nine jets would come from, though they may belong to Qatar Airways. The Doha-based airline has been forced to slash much of its short-haul flying because it has been blocked from flying to the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia due to a diplomatic spat. Qatar Airways owns 20 percent of British Airways’ parent company, International Airlines Group.

Not all British Airways crew members are planning to strike next month. The airline has a two-tiered pay structure, and flight attendants hired after 2010 are paid considerably less than their longer-tenured peers. The lesser paid group accounts for about 5,000 flight attendants, or about one-third of total number. But not every member of the lower paid group is expected to participate in the strike.

The lower paid group, which goes by the name, “Mixed Fleet, has gone on strike several times, and British Airways has wet-leased other aircraft to cover some flying. But the jets generally come from airlines closer to home, like Manchester-based Thomas Cook Airlines.

Here is the filing. 

Download (PDF, 75KB)


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Tags: british airways, labor, qatar

Photo credit: A British Airways jet takes off from Heathrow. The airline wants to wet-lease nine planes from Qatar to cover flying during a proposed strike by flight attendants. Stefan Wermuth / Reuters

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