The simmering dispute between British Airways and its cabin crew risks a serious escalation after the head of the BA Stewards and Stewardesses Association (BASSA) warned of renewed strikes this Christmas.

Leaders of union Unite, which includes BASSA, are due to meet BA bosses for talks next week, with cabin crew due to hold a mass meeting next Monday.

However, BASSA branch secretary Duncan Holley warned on Tuesday: “We are looking for the green light for a strike ballot next week, which would encompass the Christmas period and there is every likelihood we will be out.”

Holley suggested BA customers should book with other airlines, saying: “It would be prudent for the travelling public to take this into account and make alternative arrangements to ensure their holiday plans are not wrecked.”

He admitted: “We are trying to put pressure on BA by hitting its bookings.” But he argued: “Our members are still being bullied and sacked unfairly.”

A BA spokesman said the airline remains available for talks.