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BALPA’s Action for Aviation

by Paul Naylor BALPA Executive President

BALPA has been the most vocal organisation, lobbying throughout the COVID crisis for our industry; so when Portugal was moved, without warning, from the green to amber travel list, I am sure I was not the only professional pilot whose shoulders sagged and who felt like the stuffing had been knocked out of them?

Raising the pressure

However, the team at BALPA swung into action with a decision to raise the pressure, and initiate a very public lobby of parliament; right outside the building. By the end of that first day, permissions had been applied for and our public lobby day of action started to take shape.

Within a couple of days, it became apparent that we were not the only industry organisation which was fed up with the Government’s mixed messages, inconsistent decision making and debilitating rules; seemingly designed to destroy our industry.

BALPA leaders again met and looked at how to harness this wave of energy across the industry to amplify the message. We joined forces with bodies representing those across the board in travel and introduced an idea to widen the geographical scope with events all around the UK. This paid off – we had the value of virtually the entire travel and tourism industry sector working with us to provide reach and clout, whilst our parallel events in Scotland, Northern Ireland and other English regions ensured this was not a ‘Westminster bubble’ event.

Spreading the Message:

In one sense, the day was a huge success. I was up early on Sky News, delivered a public letter to our Prime Minister at Number 10 before arriving at College Green. BALPA Acting General Secretary Brian Strutton, myself, Sam Walkingshaw BALPA’s Executive Vice President, a number of reps and you our members, undertook many interviews with media and met with Members of Parliament from both Commons and Lords as well as deepening relationships with all parts of our incredible industry.



College Green, opposite the Houses of Parliament, was testament to the breadth of involvement and the depth of feelings on this issue. We could all see that it wasn’t the virus and the necessary actions to address it, which was killing our industry; it was inept and incoherent government actions and messaging.  Our message was issued ‘five by five’ – loud and clear;

1.    return to the government’s own data driven traffic light system, allowing travel to countries the data shows are safe and should be green; why is the traffic light stuck on red?
2.    When, for demonstrated, good reasons, travel is not advised, the Government must provide the previously promised bespoke financial support for the travel sector

From travel bodies like ABTA and their member travel agents, through airports, airlines and shipping companies, to unions and professional associations such as Unite, GMB, Prospect and ourselves, a serious yet determined atmosphere was obvious to all those attending.

Pilots, cabin crew and other uniformed staff from many UK airlines gave a very visible (and media friendly) face to the human effects of this continuing hammer blow to our companies. Hundreds of people whose livelihoods and family wellbeing rely on a vibrant travel sector, loudly and colourfully gave a lie to the myth that airlines and airports are big companies which can look after themselves; as ever, it is the people (voters) who suffer in such circumstances.

Dozens of members of BALPA had registered to attend and persuaded their MPs to come across and hear the message and, although our Prime Minister did not stop, he could not have mistaken the message as he swept by in his ministerial car after PMQs.

Taking the message to the whole of the UK

And as we gathered in London, similar events were taking place across the UK… Belfast, Bristol, Edinburgh, Luton and Manchester all saw pilots deliver the message to politicians, decision makers and the public.

You can view a video of the highlights of the day by clicking below:

In the days following the event it was clear that people had heard our message. We saw politicians we had briefed raise the issue in parliament and in the media. The much anticipated Green list saw additions… only a small scale step but one in the right direction.

For BALPA, the #TravelDayOfAction was one of many days of action, all be it this was a particularly visible day. It has certainly helped make the public aware of our message and given the Government plenty to think about going forwards.

However, delivering the message on one day such as this, is not ‘job done’. It is a stepping stone on our path.
We have spent the last year providing triage for those most in need, navigating our collective path through the worst crisis aviation has seen while ensuring we are robust enough to survive and provide for our members going forward. We must now focus on the future of our industry, the rebuild and restoration of a once vibrant sector.

BALPA will continue to carry forward the momentum and take strides towards the goal of delivering the message for travel, aviation and you, our members. Our behind the scenes meetings with key departments and decision makers continue and we are pushing the agenda with all our skills and resources.