LONDON - Hundreds of thousands of travellers around the world have been left stranded after British Airways was forced to cancel almost all its flights for 48 hours owing to a strike by its pilots over a pay dispute.
The United Kingdom's flagship carrier said in a statement that it had "no way of predicting how many (pilots) would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly". As a result, it said it had "no option but to cancel nearly 100%" of its flights for the duration of the strike. The cancellations are reportedly affecting as many as 195,000 travellers.
The strike came about after British Airways and the pilots' union could not come to an agreement over terms of a new deal. British Airways said it has offered the pilots a pay raise of 11.5% over three years, but the union says its members want a bigger share of the company's profits.
"We understand the frustration and disruption (the) strike action has caused our customers. After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this," said the UK carrier in its statement.
A further strike is pencilled in for Sept 27.
British Airways' parent company, IAG, made a net profit of US$3.2 billion last year. The carrier operates up to 850 flights a day.
London's Heathrow Airport will be the most affected by the pilot strike as it is the airline's hub and is used for many of the company's long-haul international flights.
Meanwhile, over 13,000 passengers spent the night at Narita International Airport in Japan, waiting for train and bus services to be restored after one of the strongest typhoons in recent years had battered the country.
Typhoon Faxai had killed at least three. Over 50 were injured, including in neighboring Chiba and Kanagawa prefectures, and 140 houses were damaged.
Narita was cut off from Tokyo on Sept 9 after dangerous conditions forced East Japan Railway and Keisei Electric Railway to halt trains to and from the airport, located 57km from the city centre. Bus services were suspended as well.
The number of stuck travellers rose as high as around 16,900 as of midnight, according to the airport operator.
Railway lines connecting the airport with central Tokyo resumed operation in the morning of Sept 10, helping to clear out the crowds at the city's main international gateway.