British Airways applies to use Qatar planes, staff during cabin crew strike

LONDON, June 23 (Reuters) - British Airways has applied to use Qatar Airways planes and crew to help the airline to fly all passengers to their destinations during planned strikes by some of its cabin staff next month.

British Airways’ mixed fleet cabin crew - those who work on both long and short-haul flights - are set to go on strike for two weeks from July 1 over sanctions on union members involved in previous industrial action in a long-running dispute about pay.

A document dated June 21 showed that the airline had applied to Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority to use nine Qatar registered Airbus A320 or A321s between July 1 and July 16.

“The application has been made on the grounds that the lease is justified on the basis of exceptional needs ... to enable British Airways to continue passenger operations in light of planned operational disruption by its mixed fleet cabin crew,” a CAA document said.

A “wet-leasing” deal would mean that BA pays Qatar to use its aircraft and crew for the two week period.

The deal could help Qatar to make more use of its planes after its operations were disrupted by a boycott from four Arab nations, forcing it to seek out other destinations on which to use its planes.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Qatar on June 5 in the worst diplomatic crisis in the region in years.

There are already close ties between Qatar Airways and British Airways. Both are partners in the OneWorld alliance and code share on certain flights, while the Doha-based carrier owns a 20 percent stake in BA parent International Airlines Group .

British Airways said when the strike was announced that it would fly all customers to their destinations during the strike action, as it has done during previous strikes.

“Our priority is to fly all our customers to their destinations. We are looking at a range of options and are speaking with a number of airlines,” a spokeswoman for British airways said.

“We will publish our contingency plans in the coming days for customers who have bookings on the days of threatened industrial action.” (Reporting by Alistair Smout and Victoria Bryan; Editing by Alison Williams)