Britain’s largest union, Unite today (Friday 23 June) is calling on the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to turn down an application by British Airways to charter or ‘wet lease’ nine Qatari registered Airbus that it wants to provide cover for a two week strike by mixed fleet cabin crew.
Writing to the CAA, Unite warned that the lease could be in breach of aviation law, if British Airways was unable to demonstrate that an equivalent level of safety standards would be applied to the aircraft.
Under European Union law, British Airways must demonstrate to the CAA that ‘all safety standards equivalent to those imposed by the community or national laws are met.’ As part of this a thorough examination of all applicable records, training and maintenance must be sought and provided for aircraft, engineers, pilots and cabin crew.
Pointing to Qatar’s inferior flight duty time limitations and rest requirements, Unite warned that unless these had been ‘transitioned’ to meet EU requirements and a standardisation visit had taken place by the European Aviation Safety Agency, the ‘wet lease’ would not be compliant.
Additionally, Unite warned that if a bi-lateral international agreement between the EU and Qatar covering ‘wet leasing’ does not exist then approval for the lease would not comply and should be automatically refused.
Unite members working for British Airways’ mixed fleet are set to strike from 00:01 Saturday 1 July to 23:59 Sunday 16 July amid accusations that the airline was operating a ‘blacklist’ by sanctioning cabin crew who took strike action in a long running pay dispute.
Commenting Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: “The Civil Aviation Authority must refuse British Airways’ application to ‘wet lease’ aircraft from outside the European Union as it is doubtful the airline can demonstrate it is compliant with aviation law covering safety.
“British Airways should be focusing its energies on resolving the dispute instead of seeking to lease aircraft from half way around the globe at an estimated cost of £5,000 per hour.
“That it is leasing the aircraft from an airline found to have breached international standards on labour and human rights by telling female cabin crew they would be sacked if they became pregnant is doubly shameful.
“It is an entirely avoidable waste of resources on behalf of British Airways and would not have happened, if the bosses had accepted our compromise offer on the outstanding issue of sanctions.
“Instead, British Airways faces the disruption of a two week strike and legal action on behalf of over 1,400 mixed fleet cabin crew over the way it targeted striking members of cabin crew.
“We would urge British Airways’ bosses to come to their senses and think again.”
A ‘wet lease’ is a leasing arrangement where one airline, the lessor, provides an aircraft complete with crew, maintenance and insurance to another airline. Previous strike action by British Airways’ mixed fleet cabin crew led to the airline wet leasing aircraft from European compliant airlines, such as Titan Airways, Vueling and Thomson Airways.
Unite is ‘vigorously’ pursuing legal action against British Airways on behalf of 1,400 cabin crew, who were sanctioned for taking strike action in a long running pay dispute.
Central to the claims will be the accusation that British Airways has formed a blacklist to impose sanctions on striking cabin crew. Sanctions have included cabin crew seeing bonus payments worth hundreds of pounds taken away and the removal of staff travel concessions.
For further information please contact Unite head of media and campaigns Alex Flynn on 020 3371 2066 or 07967 665869.
Notes to editors
Unite is Britain and Ireland’s largest trade union with over 1.4 million members working across all sectors of the economy. The general secretary is Len McCluskey.