11:34 15 December 2009
Over one million passengers could face a ruined Christmas if a planned walkout goes ahead at Britain's largest airline.
A 12-day strike at one of the busiest times of the year, which could see up to 12,000 British Airways cabin crew take part, is planned from December 22 January 2.
Despite BA promising to refund passengers during the action, industry experts have warned that many could be left disappointed as other airlines are nearly fully booked.
BA's crew voted nine to one in favour of industrial action in the row over job cuts and "significant contractual changes", with an 80% turn out.
Over 12,000 staff turned up to hear the announcement at the mass Unite union meeting at Sandown Park racecourse in Surrey.
Assistant general secretary at Unite, Len McCluskey said that he hoped the size of the vote would force BA to reopen negotiations.
He said: "We have taken this decision to disrupt passengers with a heavy heart and we are hoping that the company can still avoid it happening."
However bosses at BA, which suffered its worst annual loss in history in 2009 at £401 million, have criticised the timing of the walkout.
In a statement issued by the airline, BA said: "British Airways is extremely disappointed that Unite is planning massive disruption for hundreds of thousands of our customers over the Christmas/New Year holiday period.
"A 12-day strike would be completely unjustified and a huge over-reaction to the modest changes we have announced for cabin crew which are intended to help us recover from record financial losses.
"Unites cynical decision betrays a total lack of concern for our customers, our business and other employees within British Airways."
Industry experts have warned that the dispute could be disastrous for the loss-making airline as rival company's Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair and easyJet pick up their passengers. BA is losing £1.6 million a day and has recently reported a £3.7 billion deficit in its pension funds.
If the plans go ahead, some 7,000 flights could be affected, leaving many people's plans of a Christmas family reunion in tatters.
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