British Airways is understood to be expecting a series of short 48-hour strikes and planning to cut back on its long-haul programme to maintain as much of its flying as possible.

The Unite union is expected to announce today that members have voted in favour of industrial action following its aborted “12 days of Christmas strike” that was ruled illegal by the High Court.

Athough Unite’s 12,000 members are said to be in favour of a long 10-day walk-out Unite, bosses have already said the 12-day walk out was “over the top”.

Unite is due to announce the strike dates later this week but has said the Easter holidays will be avoided.

A source close to talks with BA said the airline was planning to reduce its long haul programme from Heathrow during what is predicted to be a series of 48-hour strikes, while short haul routes will operate as usual.

This would be a reversal of the airline’s previous strategy of cancelling short-haul flights during industrial action in order to keep the long-haul services operating.

The source said: “They are going to be using cabin crew who may only have been training for the last month.

“They will be better equiped to cope with a short flight to Barcelona, for example, than a flight to Australia.”

Unite union’s ballot of crew is due to close today and the union must then give the airline seven days notice of industrial action.

The action is widely expected to go ahead, after the High Court blocked the 12-day stike planned for the busy Christmas period because redundant BA workers were included in the ballot.

The airline has asked staff from other departments if they would be willing to train as cabin crew to keep flights running. It has also offered to take on temporary workers who left the company last year.

A BA spokesman said: “We are putting contingency plans in place but won’t be releasing details at the moment.”

Advantage director of business travel Norman Gage is holding a forum next week to ensure members are prepared.

“The effects on on the economy of a strike won’t be a disaster, but it will be a major setback.

“For agents, communication is the most important thing so they have to make sure all their client contact details are up to date.”               

Meanwhile, former HRG managing director Mike Platt has written an open letter to BA, offering his services as cabin crew.

In a blog post he wrote: “Despite maybe seeming rather absurd, I feel compelled to offer even my services if it means playing a part in halting this militant union’s self destructive action.”

He said the Union is either “naive” or has “another agenda” for rejecting BA’s package.

Last week Unite’s bid to have BA’s new working practices ruled illegal because they break staff contracts was thrown out in the High Court.

Mr Justice Sir Christopher Holland said he did not want to condemn a move that was designed to preserve jobs at the airline that is on course for record losses this year. 

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