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Aviation and Politics: Landing BALPA’s Interests in Government

by Lord Richard Balfe BALPA Honorary President

Since its foundation in the 1930s, BALPA has maintained a consistent line of working with all political parties. A unique part of that is that BALPA’s Honorary Officers are always Members of the House of Lords. I was pleased some years ago to be asked to be Vice President to John Monks and happy to succeed him as President. My own background included many years in AUEW (TASS), a union of highly skilled staff, as well as being an MEP between 1979 to 2004.

Now, with Lord Larry Whitty as my Vice President, the essence of our approach is to – at all times – remember the BALPA strapline: “every flight a safe flight”.

Our job is to represent the interests of BALPA to Government. As Peers we have unique access to Ministers and opportunities to impress BALPA’s interests on Ministers, as well as within Parliament to ensure that focus is always on legitimate interests of the union.

We stay well away from political infighting.

BALPA works within the industry to make every flight safe and takes pride in making all passengers feel safe. As we often reflect in meetings and private discussions with Ministers, we all have the same objectives. We ask Ministers to recognise the highly skilled nature of a pilots work and the legitimate demands they make for good pay and working conditions as a reward for their many years of study and heavy responsibilities.

We are now finding that some of the decisions taken during the COVID pandemic were – to put it mildly – unfortunate. The airlines now have to rebuild the trust needed between good employers and their staff.

The reality is that flying is going to develop and be an important part of travel in our future. Although attention is often directed to environmental factors, the fact is that the industry has a good record of cutting both noise and pollution. The challenges of the years ahead will be considerable and as I look back to what flying was like when I first boarded an aircraft in 1950, I can see unlimited possibilities for a bright, safe and secure future for both our industry and BALPA.

I am as proud to represent BALPA in the House of Lords as I am sure all our members are when they don their uniforms and head off to make their next and every flight a safe flight.