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British Airways Cabin Crew Begin 5-Day Strike

Thousands of British Airways cabin crew began a five-day strike Monday, though the airline claimed it will still be able to carry 70 percent of passengers who have booked flights.

British Airways planes parked at Heathrow Airport in London, Wednesday Aug. 1, 2007. A British regulator on Wednesday fined British Airways 121.5 million pounds (US$ 246 million; euro 180 million) after the airline admitted colluding with a rival over surcharges on long-haul flights. BA said it accepted the fine from the Office of Fair Trading and expected to be hit with another penalty from the U.S. Department of Justice later in the day. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Kirsty Wigglesworth
British Airways planes parked at Heathrow Airport in London, Wednesday Aug. 1, 2007. A British regulator on Wednesday fined British Airways 121.5 million pounds (US$ 246 million; euro 180 million) after the airline admitted colluding with a rival over surcharges on long-haul flights. BA said it accepted the fine from the Office of Fair Trading and expected to be hit with another penalty from the U.S. Department of Justice later in the day. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

The walkout in the increasingly bitter feud follows the failure of weekend talks between the Unite union and the airline. A key issue is the union's demand that the airline restore employee travel benefits which the airline suspended following an earlier strike.

The union's joint leader, Tony Woodley, says BA already has secured its aim of cutting 1,700 jobs. Woodley said the dispute has turned personal because he believes the airline dislikes the cabin crew's Unite union branch, the British Airlines Stewards and Stewardesses Association.

British Airways says it has accepted in invitation for more negotiations, and says it believes the union will also accept.

"Those savings are in the bank. This dispute has been broadened, so this is not just about cost downs, it is about regime change. It is personal because of the dislike and trust of the branch," Woodley said in an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. radio.

British Airways said it had already offered to reinstate travel concessions to cabin crew once all elements of its offer were implemented, but it accused Woodley and the union of reopening issues which had been settled.

"This position reinforces our view that BASSA, at the center of this dispute, is not serious in trying to come to a negotiated agreement with British Airways - and that Tony cannot control BASSA," the airline said in a statement.

BA said all flights at London Gatwick and London City airports would operate as normal, and it expected to operate more than 60 percent of long-haul flights and half of its short-haul schedule from London Heathrow.

On Friday, BA reported a full year net loss of 425 million pounds ($611 million), the largest since the former national airline was privatized in 1987, compared with a 358 million pound loss the previous year. Revenue dropped 11 percent to 7.99 billion pounds from 8.99 billion pounds.