Ian TaylorIt may be wise for agents and British Airways passengers to dig in for a protracted strike, with no glimmer of a settlement.

BA pledged to operate an increased number of flights over the four-day strike due from Saturday, clearly feeling its operation to date has been a success. Cabin crew union Unite said BA had “pulled up the drawbridge”.

The strike certainly did not ground BA, despite conflicting claims about its impact. There have been disgruntled passengers, but no images of chaos and BA was confident enough to halve the number of additional aircraft and crew it planned to lease this weekend.

The airline was also bullish about the cost of the strike, calculating the bill at £7 million a day – considerably less than the figures bandied about by analysts, though this bill will undoubtedly rise.

However, disruption continued into Tuesday – when BA would not confirm but said it would “not quibble” with a report that 20% of Heathrow flights were cancelled.

The problem is positions are hardening as the strike moves out of the headlines. There is little evidence of resolve weakening among the strikers, despite BA’s claim that 53% of rostered crew at Heathrow reported for work. Confirmation that striking crew have permanently lost all travel perks won’t encourage those involved to give up.

The consequences of the strike have been ridiculously overblown. BA is not about to go bust – it has a huge cash pile and rich assets. On the contrary, Willie Walsh appears ready for a fight that could drag into the summer.

Failing an unexpected deal before the weekend, the pressure should be on to find a settlement over Easter before the union resumes strikes from April 14. The dispute can only end with a resolution or a capitulation, and the latter is not likely without a bitter fight. It could be a long haul.