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British Airways gets by strike Many flight attendants don't honor walkout; some service restored; Airlines

With an unexpected number of flight attendants showing up on the first day of a three-day strike, British Airways said yesterday that it will restore some regularly scheduled flights today plus add charter service in some cities, including Baltimore.

The cabin crew strike began early yesterday morning, forcing the airline to cancel nearly half of the 1,000 daily flights it operates worldwide, including a round-trip flight from Baltimore-Washington International Airport to London's Gatwick Airport.

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But British Airways said yesterday that about 1,000 flight attendants showed up, two-thirds of them members of the British Airline Stewards and Stewardesses Association, part of the Transport and General Workers' Union, which voted to strike over a proposal to end overtime pay in favor of higher basic pay.

"More of the cabin crew came to work than we thought," said Marge Vodopia, a spokeswoman for British Airways in New York. "We'll be operating 25 percent more flights [today]."

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The airline needs about 1,800 to 2,000 crew members to operate its full daily schedule, she said.

The walkout forced BA passengers at BWI and elsewhere to hastily arrange flights on other carriers; some were left stranded. British Airways' only regular, nonstop service between Baltimore and London is aboard a Boeing 767, seating 219 passengers.

Late yesterday afternoon, a British Airways shuttle bus transported BWI passengers to Washington-Dulles International Airport, where the carrier had arranged for a charter airline to carry its passengers to London. BA normally operates two daily flights at Dulles.

Vodopia said the airline expected to arrange similar charter flights today out of BWI, as well as Dulles and Philadelphia International Airport. She said the airline would update its schedule frequently on its World Wide Web site -- http: //www.british-airways.com.

Meanwhile, U.S. airlines said yesterday that they were trying to accommodate passengers and cargo stranded by the strike, but they warned that there was limited extra space during the hectic summer travel season.

American Airlines, BA's proposed alliance partner, said it will add one extra daily flight from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport to London Heathrow through tomorrow. And British airline Virgin Atlantic Airways, a unit of Virgin Group, planned to add two flights between New York and London tomorrow.

There were no indications yesterday that negotiations, which broke off Sunday, would resume. And the airline insisted it would not negotiate the terms of a deal to cut costs by 42 million pounds ($71 million), which provoked the dispute.

British Airways also branded the strike illegal, saying there were discrepancies in the strike ballot. Union leaders denied those allegations.

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The Transport and General Workers Union, which represents about 8,500 flight attendants, or 75 percent of BA's cabin crew, called the strike last week. Members walked out at 1 a.m. yesterday in the face of warnings by management that strikers could lose benefits and face a lockout. More than 1,500 called in sick, rather than strike, apparently because of fears of crossing a picket line.

Flights that did operate were staffed by members of a 3,000-member union that accepted the pay package, unaffiliated crew members and the striking union's members who reported to work.

Pub Date: 7/10/97


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