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Originally published March 26, 2010 at 9:31 AM | Page modified March 27, 2010 at 6:37 AM

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Second round of British Airways strike to begin

British Airways is taking another hit to its flying schedule — and already lighter wallet — as the second walkout by its cabin ...

AP Business Writer

Seattle flights

British Airways so far has not canceled its daily flight between London and Seattle on Saturday and Sunday, but has canceled both incoming and outbound flights for Tuesday, March 30, and its incoming flight from London on Monday, March 29. There was no information posted on its Web site Friday about the status of its outbound flight to London from Seattle on Monday. See www.britishairways.com for updated information.

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LONDON — British Airways is taking another hit to its flying schedule — and already lighter wallet — as the second walkout by its cabin crew in less than a week begins on Saturday.

BA was bullish about the action, saying it planned to fly more than three quarters of booked passengers over the new four-day walkout and maintaining its tough stance against the striking workers.

But its Heathrow services will be severely depleted — down to 55 percent for short haul and 75 percent for long haul — as the acrimonious dispute over pay and changes to working conditions drags on.

And the first walkout has already cost the airline around 21 million pounds ($31 million).

Both BA and the Unite union have said they are willing to return to negotiations, as urged by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but there is little sign of appeasement from either side.

BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh angered the union earlier this week by withdrawing valuable travel perks from crew members who walked off the job, saying they were non-contractual.

Unite says any deal to resolve the dispute would have to include the restoration of those privileges, on which around 1,500 flight attendants who are employed in Britain but resident abroad rely on to get to work.

Walsh, however, said that any proposal must now be modified to account for the cost of the walkout.

Before the walkouts, the airline offered a compromise on a proposed pay freeze this year, offering a 3 percent rise next year and the year after and then an inflation-linked increase in 2013/14 capped at 4 percent. The other changes include a switch to part-time work for 3,000 staff and a reduction in cabin crew sizes from 15 to 14 on long-haul flights from Heathrow.

The workers have won support from a group of 95 British academics who wrote in a letter to the Guardian newspaper, that Walsh's actions "notwithstanding his protestations to the contrary, are explicable only by the desire to break the union which represents the cabin crew."

Walsh said Friday that almost 60 percent of cabin crew rostered on to work the first March 20-22 strike had reported for their shifts.

"The vast majority of British Airways staff, including thousands of cabin crew, are pulling together to serve our customers and keep our flag flying," he said in a statement. "At the same time, I feel really sorry for those customers whose plans have been ruined by Unite's completely unjustified action."

BA said it expects to handle more than 180,000 of the 240,000 people who had planned to travel from March 27-30 — the second strike that has hit the airline in less than a week in an acrimonious dispute over pay and changes to working conditions.

A further 43,000 passengers have been rebooked to travel on other carriers, or changed the dates of their BA flights to avoid the walkout.

All Gatwick and London City flights would operate normally, the airline said. At Heathrow, it planned to run at least 55 percent of its short haul and 75 percent of its long haul flights.

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