BRUSSELS (Reuters) - British Airways will use Qatar Airways planes and crew to fly all its passengers to their destinations during a planned two-week strike by some cabin crew, Willie Walsh, head of BA’s parent company, said on Thursday.
The strike by BA’s mixed fleet cabin crew - those who work on both long and short-haul flights - is due to begin on Saturday.
BA had already applied to Britain's Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) to use nine Qatar-registered Airbus A320 or A321s between July 1 and July 16 and Walsh, CEO of International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG) ICAG.L, said the plan would go ahead.
“I’ll be pleased to say that those airplanes will fly and all of the British Airways passengers who are booked to fly with us over the next couple of weeks will be flying,” Walsh told reporters in Brussels on Thursday when asked if the application to use the planes had been successful.
Members of the mixed fleet crew are engaged in a long-running dispute with BA about pay. The forthcoming strike is over sanctions on union members involved in previous industrial action.
British Airways had previously guaranteed that all customers would reach their destinations, although some flights will be merged.
The CAA would not confirm that BA’s application had been approved and said it was still processing it.
“Under European regulations specific approval is required for an EU airline, such as British Airways, to wet lease aircraft from an airline based outside of Europe,” a spokesman for the CAA said in a statement.
“The UK Department for Transport will approve or reject the application taking into account advice from the Civil Aviation Authority.”
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 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.
BA and Qatar Airways have close ties. 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.
Reporting by Julia Fioretti, writing by Alistair Smout, editing by Susan Fenton
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