Flight chaos looms as BA staff vow to strike

THE Christmas plans of thousands of travellers from Australia and Britain have been thrown into disarray after British Airways flight attendants vowed to strike for 12 days from Tuesday.

In a statement the airline said flights would be cancelled if the action went ahead - affecting hundreds of thousands of people globally - and encouraged passengers with existing tickets to change their travel times at no extra cost, receive a refund, or be moved to another carrier.

Qantas, which can book passengers on BA flights through its Oneworld alliance, also issued a statement in which it promised it could carry all its existing customers between Australia and Britain.

'"We have determined we have sufficient capacity across the 12 days to accommodate Qantas-ticketed passengers booked on BA codeshare flights between Australia and the UK on existing Qantas services,'' the airline said.

But some BA services from London into Europe would be affected. These passengers may need to change their bookings or travel with other airlines.

''Some flexibility may be needed regarding changes to travel dates and times,'' Qantas said.

Philippa Bole, who flew to Sydney from Britain last month to spend Christmas with her family and celebrate her father's 90th birthday at Lindfield, faces a nail-biting holiday.

She is scheduled to fly BA on December 27, in time to return to work assisting family visitors to Belfast juvenile and women's prisons two days later.

Ms Bole is hoping she will make it - she booked through Qantas - and that her children will be home in time to sit their university exams in the new year.

''I just can't believe they want to make it impossible for families to get here,'' the Australian expatriate of 30 years said.

''The kids are coming for Christmas … it's the first time the family's been together for five years. I think it's a very emotional time of the year for people … and to make a muck of that.''

More than 92 per cent of BA's 13,500 cabin crew who took part in a union vote on Monday opted to strike from December 22 to January 2. The action, organised by the union for cabin crew, Unite, is a response to cash-strapped British Airways' proposal to slash 1700 jobs, freeze the wages of existing employees and hire staff on lower wages.

The airline is merging with Iberia, a move Unite opposes unless there are no job losses.

''British Airways is telling customers that if they can change their trip that will be done free of charge,'' a BA spokeswoman in Australia said.

with AAP