London — British Airways said Monday that it had been forced to cancel almost all flights as a result of a pilots' 48-hour strike over pay. In a statement Monday, the airline said 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. The airline told CBS News it could not give a specific breakdown on how many flights to and from the U.S. would be affected, but confirmed that virtually all of its total daily flights, a number usually around 850, were canceled.
BA said it stands ready to return to talks with pilots' union Balpa and that it is offering affected customers full refunds or the option to rebook.
BA said in a statement: "We understand the frustration and disruption Balpa's 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."
BA says it has offered pilots a pay rise of 11.5% over three years but the union says its members want a bigger share of the company's profits.
The union accuses BA of making massive profits at the expense of workers who made sacrifices during hard times. A further strike is penciled in for Sept. 27.
Union leader Brian Strutton said pilots are determined to be heard.
"They've previously taken big pay cuts to help the company through hard times. Now BA is making billions of pounds of profit, its pilots have made a fair, reasonable and affordable claim for pay and benefits."
Strutton said he simply didn't know how much support the pilots had among the travelling public, as they "get a range of mixed messages."
"What's more important is the pilots are 100 percent solid," he said. "Ninety-three percent of British Airways pilots voted to go on strike, they're the ones I'm representing in this dispute, they're the ones I'm trying to broker a deal for."
BA said it understood the frustration of passengers affected by the strike.
London's sprawling Heathrow Airport will be the most impacted by the work stoppage as it is BA's major hub and used for many of the company's long-haul international flights.