Options for passengers flying BA over Christmas

Thousands of Australian travellers face an anxious and potentially costly wait to find out whether a British Airways strike will ruin their Christmas plans.

A last-ditch bid by the airline to halt a 12-day strike by the union representing BA cabin crew will be heard in London about 1am tomorrow, Australian time.

Do you know more? Text 0424 SMS SMH (+61 424 767 764), email us at scoop@smh.com.au or direct message on Twitter @smh_news

Passengers who booked months in advance to fly BA to Britain via Asia between December 22 and January 2 can only hope BA will either head off the strike or be able to find them a seat on another airline.

Their other option is to change their flights now, potentially incurring extra costs but acting in the knowledge fares will continue to rise and seats will continue to diminish the longer they wait.

"It's a really difficult one for people at the moment because there's not a lot of definitive information in the market," Flight Centre spokesman Haydn Long said.

"If the [BA flights] had been cancelled, people would be able to make alternative plans.

"But BA hasn't actually cancelled [them] yet and they've been talking about contingency plans and an alternative schedule but they haven't released the schedule yet.

"So we don't really know what the implications are at this time."

Mr Long said a return fare between Sydney and London at this time of year would cost upwards of $2500 based on Flight Centre's current stock.

"There may be some cheaper examples, but they will not be available in large numbers," he said.

BA says it will contact affected customers directly when the outcome of tonight's hearing is determined.

Update your details on the BA website.

Qantas has already acted under the assumption the strike will go ahead.

All passengers booked on "codeshare" flights - Qantas tickets flying on BA aircraft - will be accommodated on existing Qantas services, a spokeswoman said.

But the airline is less certain about the fate of travellers booked on connecting BA flights out of Britain and into Europe, for example.

"Qantas will provide alternative options, where possible, for [those] customers," the airline said in a statement.

"These will include allowing changes to bookings without penalty and, on some routes, opportunities to travel on other carriers.

"Some flexibility may be needed regarding changes to travel dates and times."

If Qantas is not able to transfer travellers the airline would issue a travel waiver, involving either a fare refund or transfer, the spokeswoman said.

The airline was today contacting those travellers on connecting flights, a spokeswoman said.

Qantas was not at this stage considering putting on extra flights to accommodate regular BA passengers left without seats should the strike proceed, she said.

The Christmas season is the busiest travel time of the year between Britain and Australia.

Last December, 100,800 travellers came to Australia from Britain and in January a further 59,200 arrived. Going to London, 41,300 travellers left Australia last December and another 18,100 in January.

A Flight Centre travel agent, who asked not to be named, said if the flights were cancelled BA would either change customers on to flights outside the strike period at no extra charge or try to place them with other airlines.

The company, which has about 500 passengers booked to fly BA during the strike period, was not being inundated with calls, Mr Long said.

"I think people are sitting back a little bit to see if anything's going to happen," Mr Long said.

For those passengers who chose to act now and re-book their flights, price rises would be an issue.

"If you've booked months ago you may have got your fare for a couple of hundred dollars cheaper than what the fare will be available for at a later time," Mr Long said.

"But if you've booked with BA in that period and absolutely have to [arrive on a particular date] you may want to consider alternative arrangements."