LONDON — British Airways scrapped nearly half its flights out of Heathrow Airport yesterday after cabin crews began a five-day strike to protest cost-cutting plans at the money-losing airline.
Two more walkouts are planned by the Unite union if the dispute is not resolved.
BA said it plans to carry 70 percent of booked passengers during the strike.
But services at Heathrow were hit — adding to travel misery for passengers just weeks after the closure of European airspace because of the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland and a seven-day BA cabin crew strike in March.
Striking workers gathered near Heathrow’s perimeter fence, waving banners reading “Brutish Airways.’’ On another picket line, workers held placards with the message: “We had no choice.’’
The airline has scrambled to operate as many flights as possible — using nonstriking crews, leasing aircraft complete with crews, and transferring passengers to competitors’ airlines.
British Airways said it has accepted an invitation for more negotiations. While the two sides are close to agreement on many issues, mistrust and bitterness have made a deal elusive. Unite accused BA of having a vindictive attitude after it canceled strikers’ low-cost travel. BA said it offered to reinstate travel concessions once all elements of its offer are implemented, but accused the union of reopening settled issues.
The airline has repeatedly warned that a yearlong pay freeze and changes in work rules are necessary for BA to survive.