BA Posts More Record Losses as Strike Looms

 - May 21, 2010, 11:16 AM

British Airways posted another record loss for its fiscal year ending March 31, as the recession, labor strife and adverse winter weather conspired to negate the some £1 billion ($1.435 billion) in cost savings the company managed to implement during the period. Losses before taxes totaled £531 million ($762 million), compared with the preceding fiscal year's record loss of £401 million ($575 million).

“This is our second consecutive year of record losses but we take heart from the fact that, while our revenue has fallen by £1 billion, so have our costs,” said British Airways chairman Martin Broughton.

Revenues fell from £8.992 billion ($12.904 billion) to £7.994 billion ($11.472 billion). Cabin-crew strikes in March cost the carrier £43 million ($62 million) and threats of another labor action next week tarnished what one might otherwise consider a rather optimistic outlook from British Airways CEO Willie Walsh, who has said that he believes the company can break even this year.

“Returning the business to profitability requires permanent change across the company and it's disappointing that our cabin crew union fails to recognize that,” he said. “Structural change has been achieved in many parts of the business and our engineers and pilots have voted for permanent change.”     The Unite union, which represents 97 percent of BA's cabin crew, has threatened to institute the first of a series of three five-day strikes next week unless it can settle pay and other disputes with management. On Thursday Unite won an appeal against an injunction that had blocked a planned five-day walkout this week. Following next week's expected work stoppage, plans call for further five-day strikes from May 30 to June 3 and from June 5 to June 9.

Although the dispute began over pay and BA's reduction of crew size on long-haul flights, Walsh's refusal to return travel privileges to striking workers unless they agree to a deal has added another dimension.

British Airways said on Thursday it plans to carry more than 60,000 passengers a day during the strike, a figure that equates to 70 percent of its typical customer base.