- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 16, 2009

LONDON | Recession-weary passengers lashed out at British Airways PLC workers Tuesday as the carrier began last-ditch legal action to avert a Christmas cabin crew strike that threatens to ruin holiday plans for about a million travelers.

Faced with the possibility that the bulk of its planes will remain grounded at the busiest time of the year, the money-losing airline applied to the High Court for an injunction to prevent the planned 12-day walkout that is expected to start Dec. 22.

An emergency hearing was scheduled for Wednesday. But that still left passengers in limbo, contemplating soaring prices for alternative flights - or train journeys - to enjoy Christmas and New Year celebrations at the end of what for many has been a tough year.

Most of their ire was reserved for the cabin crews, who are taking the action to protest large-scale job cuts and pay freezes by the airline, which in turn argues the changes are necessary to ride out its dire financial situation.

“In this present climate and the way BA is going, I think the staff are looking at things the wrong way,” said Edinburgh technician Alan Little, 53, who is planning to fly from London’s Heathrow Airport on Dec. 27 to visit his sister in Kuwait.

“I think, at the moment, there are people running round like headless chickens,” Mr. Little added, as he considered his options.

Rival travel companies were quick to jump into the fray. Virgin Atlantic, which has been strongly critical of BA’s proposed revenue-sharing deal with American Airlines, said it will employ larger aircraft on key routes out of London, including to New York, Washington and New Delhi, over the planned strike period.

Domestic airline BMI ran newspaper advertisements with the tagline “BA is grounded but you needn’t be,” while Virgin Trains said it was looking at running extra services on the popular London-to-Glasgow route.

But many alternatives were proving too expensive for travelers who are still feeling the effects of Britain’s worst economic downturn since World War II.

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