British Airways is facing the threat of renewed strikes after cabin crew said they were prepared to take industrial action after their pay claims were rebuffed.
In a ballot last week among members of the so-called mixed fleet - a class of crew on inferior pay that was set up in 2010 - 95 per cent of crew who voted said they would go on strike. About a third of the eligible crew voted in the ballot, taken to gauge feeling in a fleet that unionised rapidly in 2012.
The mixed fleet is a predominantly younger crew, employed under reduced terms and conditions. The fleet was set up during the last wave of bitter industrial action at the airline, when cost-cutting led to 22 days of walkouts.
Willie Walsh, the then BA boss and now chief executive of parent company IAG, argued that traditional airlines needed to cut costs to survive, and has since pushed through thousands of job losses and salary cuts at BA's sister airline Iberia in Spain.
But the new BA recruits have been angered by schedules and salaries that see them earning less than counterparts at low-cost competitors easyJet and Ryanair.
Unions claim many BA cabin crew rely on working tax credits to supplement basic salaries, believed to be a little over £12,000 (HK$158,000), though the airline says earnings should reach £20,000 with full-flying rosters.
The new flexible crew had been hoping to close the wage gap with their better-paid colleagues and counterparts, but have made no progress.
Anger has been further stirred among employees by news that Walsh earned £5 million last year, up 400 per cent on the previous year, while BA boss Keith Williams was paid £3 million.