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British Airways pilots set to strike – your rights

Update 5pm Fri 23 August: The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) has now announced its members will strike on 9, 10 and 27 September.

British Airways says it's likely many customers won't be able to travel, although flights on BA CityFlyer, SUN-AIR and Comair aren't affected. BA says affected passengers due to travel on cancelled flights will be offered refunds and re-bookings. It says it will try to avoid industrial action and protect customers' travel plans.

We'll be following this story closely - in the meantime, much of the info below from when we first covered the possibility of strikes back in June still applies.

Thousands of British Airways pilots are to be balloted for strike action in a dispute over pay – and could end up striking as early as August. It's unclear what disruption this could cause, but if it does go ahead here's what you need to know.

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), which is thought to represent 90% of British Airways pilots, will ballot on whether to take industrial action in the next few weeks.

The ballot is set to run until 22 July, and if a strike is voted for, it could take place any time from 5 August – right in the middle of school holidays – until late January.

At the moment, it's unclear if there will be strikes, and even if there is, we don't yet know if it'll cause flight cancellations and disruption.

If you're booking a summer holiday now, you should keep a close eye on the result of the ballot, and it's worth bearing in mind the potential for disruption if a strike is called. If you've already booked a flight, here's what you need to be aware of.

If my flight's delayed or cancelled, what will I be entitled to?

Under EU flight delay law, you have rights if your flight is cancelled or delayed. For these rules to apply, the flight must have left from an EU airport, or you must have arrived at an EU airport on an EU airline.

If your flight is cancelled, you'll be entitled to an alternative flight or refund, no matter when the cancellation takes place.

Typically, a strike by an airline's pilots is not considered an extraordinary circumstance, and so could mean you're also entitled to compensation of up to £520/person if the cancellation takes place less than two weeks before the flight.

If your flight is delayed and you arrive more than three hours late you may also be entitled to compensation.

How much you'd be owed depends on how long a delay is, and the timings of the alternative flight if your flight is cancelled. For full details, see our Flight Delays guide.

If my holiday is disrupted, will my travel insurer cover me?

If your flight is cancelled, you'll be refunded, but if you've booked extra holiday elements – such as hotels or car hire – that you wouldn't be able to use because of the flight cancellation, you would not automatically get the refund directly from the airline.

Whether these costs – often known as 'consequential losses' – would be covered by your travel insurance does vary between policies, so you should of course check the wording of your documents.

If your policy does cover you, the Association of British Insurers says that generally, if you booked when the intention to strike was known but the precise dates of any industrial action were not, then the policy should continue to cover you as normal.

However, if the days of the strikes are confirmed before you book the holiday or the insurance, then the policy would likely not cover you for any strike-related claim. 

You may also be covered by Section 75 credit card protection, which makes the credit card provider jointly liable, if the flight cost more than £100.

What does BA say?

A BA spokesperson said: "We are extremely disappointed that the pilots' union, BALPA, has raised the prospect of a ballot for industrial action. We urge them to join us for mediation with the conciliation service ACAS, to reach an agreement and protect hard-working families planning their summer breaks.

"We believe our pay and benefits for pilots are among the best in the industry, with around 1,000 applications from pilots who want to move to us from other airlines every year."

A BALPA spokesperson said: "We regret having to move to a strike ballot, but we hope to avoid any disruption to passengers."

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