British Airways has lost a bid to stop its pilots from going on strike over pay disputes.
Three Court of Appeal judges refused to grant BA a temporary injunction on Wednesday, and the airline is to resume negotiations with the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) from 3pm on Wednesday.
After Balpa announced that its members backed industrial action by more than nine to one, BA went to the High Court in an attempt to halt the strikes, arguing strikes could cost the airline up to £40 million a day, and disrupt thousands of passengers' summer holidays.
Air travel concerns were already at the forefront of many travellers' minds, as Heathrow Airport workers have also reportedly planned a series of strikes over pay disparities.
Union Unite tweeted to say that strikes would take place on July 26 and 27, as well as August 5, 6, 23 and 24 at Heathrow.
BA urged the Court of Appeal judges to overturn the High Court judge’s decision, but they upheld it.
Balpa is required to provide BA with 14 days notice for industrial action.
No dates of any potential strikes have yet been given, as Balpa hopes to come to an agreement with the airline first.
It is thought that the earliest any strikes could take place is August 17.
Announcing the court’s decision on Wednesday, Lady Justice Simler said she accepted that providing more information of the notice would have been “of assistance” to BA.
However the judge, sitting with Lord Justice Davis and Lord Justice Hamblen, said she was “satisfied” that the notice met the statutory requirements.
Speaking after the ruling, Balpa's general secretary Brian Strutton said the legal action had been a “barrier” to making progress in discussions with BA and that the union hopes to resolve the dispute through negotiation.
“Our imperative is to reach a peaceful resolution, it is not the desire of pilots to go on strike," Mr Strutton said.
“I hope now the legal challenge is out of the way that BA will give renewed focus to trying to reach a deal.
“Now this has been decided, we have asked for BA to engage with us seriously.
“For the moment, we are not taking any decision about any possible industrial action, so at the moment there is no threat of disruption to the travelling public.
“Balpa wants to resolve this matter through negotiation and so we are not announcing strike dates.
“Instead, we have called on BA to hold further talks at Acas and they have agreed to meet at Acas today and for the rest of this week for one last try to resolve this dispute by negotiation.
“We have spent four days in talks at Acas already, and BA refused to move their position one iota.
“But we hope they now recognise the seriousness of the situation and will work positively with us to find a way forward."
BA said it was "disappointed" in the outcome, and has urged customers flying with the airline over the summer to ensure their contact details are up to date.
A spokesperson for the airline said it was "disappointed that the pilots’ union Balpa has chosen to threaten the holidays of thousands of our customers this summer with unprecedented strike action.
“We are very sorry for the disruption Balpa’s strike action will cause our customers.
"We ask our customers to review their contact details by visiting ba.com, or by contacting their travel agent.
“We continue to pursue every avenue to find a solution to avoid industrial action and protect our customers’ travel plans."
BA added they believed their pay offer of 11.5% over three years was "fair".
By contrast to Balpa the Unite and GMB trade unions, which represent nearly 90% of all British Airways colleagues, have already recommended the same pay offer to their members," they said.