A European court ruling that holiday pay should be based on overall rather than basic earnings could affect up to 12,000 UK pilots and cabin crew and cost airlines up to £50 million.
Although the six-year-long test case between British Airways and the British Airline Pilots’ Association will now have to return to the UK Supreme Court for a final ruling, the union does not expect it to disagree with the European Court of Justice’s verdict. While a Balpa spokesman acknowledged the possibility that BA could provide the Supreme Court with new information, there was a general industry feeling that it was now a “done deal”, he told the BBC. The spokesman also claimed that BA and other UK airlines could be forced to pay out £20 million to pilots and £30 million to cabin crew based on six years-worth of backdated pay. Balpa’s general secretary Jim McAuslan said that the verdict represented a “major victory” not just for the 3,000 BA pilots affected, and that it would now be seeking to agree similar holiday pay arrangements with other UK airlines. “We always believed that, under European Working Time rules introduced in 2004, pilots should be treated like other working people in the UK and should receive their proper pay during holidays. This should not be restricted to basic salary, but should include allowances,” he added. But a BA spokesman said that the ultimate decision lay with the UK Supreme Court, which had only referred “technical aspects” of the case to the ECJ. “We are considering the European Court’s ruling and await the decision of the Supreme Court on whether it affects the holiday pay, which has been collectively agreed between BA and its trade unions,” he said.