LONDON    -   British Airways has lost its legal attempt to block planned strikes by pilots, which could take place next month and disrupt the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of passengers. The airline had sought an injunction challenging the ballot in the high court. But the court ruled in favour of the union, Balpa, which can now call strike dates with two weeks’ notice. However, it has yet to set dates and both sides have said they remain open to talks.

In the ballot, whose result was announced on Monday, 93% of BA’s 4,000 pilots voted to take industrial action after rejecting a three-year pay deal. The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, accused the Unite union of calling the strikes to “flex its muscles”, adding that it had deliberately targeted the first weekend after most state schools have broken up, Heathrow’s busiest period.

Pilots had sought an above-inflation pay settlement that would also include a profit share scheme, reflecting their argument that they took pay cuts when BA was struggling in the wake of the financial crisis and that they should share in the benefit now that the business has recovered. BA provided the largest share of parent company IAG’s €2.9bn (£2.6bn) pretax profit in 2018.

BA carries up to 145,000 passengers a day.