Whether good or bad, British Airways sure knows how to get more than it’s fair share of publicity. On Friday, the airline was meant to welcome it’s first Airbus A350-1000 to it’s home at Heathrow airport – unfortunately, unseasonably bad weather across Europe delayed the delivery flight and instead BA was dealing with the fallout from hundreds of cancelled flights.
The media event was rescheduled for Monday but just 24-hours later attention had already moved onto a High Court appeal hearing between the airline and a pilots union. The pilots, represented by the BALPA union, have balloted for strike action but BA argues the ballot didn’t properly comply with the law.
We just invaded the BA 2119: Flight of the Future exhibition and asked @alex_cruz if he will stop @British_Airways deportation contacts, or let their 100 year legacy be one of violence and racism #DeportationsKill #BA100 pic.twitter.com/8Y14u3PKD0
— Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (@lgsmigrants) July 30, 2019
A judge originally sided with the pilots but British Airways decided to appeal that decision. A final judgement on the matter is expected to be made after 10.30am this morning – if it goes in favour of the pilots then a strike could take place from mid-August onwards.
But that wasn’t the only thing happening at British Airways yesterday. Alex Cruz, the chief executive of the airline, was at the Saatchi gallery in Central London to present the findings BA’s Flight of the Future Report. And yet again, things didn’t go quite to plan.
During Cruz’s presentation, an activist from a protest group who calls themselves the Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants leapt onto the stage and unfurled a banner which read: “Deportation contracts make me sick”. Cruz was said to have handled the incident calmly and ushered the protestor off the stage before continuing his speech.
The LGS Migrants group has long campaigned against BA’s decision to transport deportees from the United Kingdom back to their home countries. Last December the group pasted fake ads across London’s Tube network with instructions on how to stop a deportation taking place if you were to see one on a commercial flight.
Activists from the group also stormed the airfield of Stansted Airport in 2017 in an attempt to stop a charter deportation flight. Some of those involved in the protest were recently convicted of endangering the safety of the airport.
In 2018, Virgin Atlantic said it would no longer allow forced deportations to take place on their flights. British Airways has long maintained that under British law they do not have a choice and must accept deportees placed onto their flights by the authorities.
“It is a legal requirement (Immigration Act 1971) for all airlines to deport people when asked to do so by the Home Office. Not fulfilling this obligation amounts to breaking the law,” a spokesperson for the airline told us last year.
“Airlines only have the right to refuse deportees on the basis that they feel there is a threat to the safety or security of the aircraft / its passengers or the individual.”
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) says it is concerned about a dramatic rise in protest action and disruptive behaviour that stems from these forced deportations. The ITF claims that in at least 222 cases between January and October 2017, airline pilots were forced to stop a deportation from going ahead because of serious concerns they had about the safety and welfare of passengers and crew members.
LGS Migrants said it via its official Twitter account that it “broke into BA’s ‘Future of Flight’ exhibition launch to demand they end their complicity with racist deportations.” In another Tweet, the group claimed that deportation contracts would mar BA’s centenrary celebrations with allegations of violence and racism.