September 6, 2019 / 9:21 PM / 16 days ago

UPDATE 2-'Sort this out': UK PM's office urges BA and pilots to avoid strike

(Adds FT report on staff benefits, British Airways response)

LONDON, Sept 6 (Reuters) - British Airways and its pilots should sort out a dispute over pay and avoid strike action scheduled for early next week, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday.

British Airways' pilots are set to strike on Monday and Tuesday, threatening to severely disrupt the airline and the travel plans of its customers who have been forced to rebook trips.

Pilots union BALPA has said that British Airways should share more of its profits with its pilots. British Airways has said that the strike action is unjustifiable as its pay offer is fair and that the action will destroy the travel plans of tens of thousands of customers.

"Our view is that nobody should have their travel plans disrupted or their holidays ruined and the unions and BA need to get round the table and sort this out," Johnson's spokeswoman said. "The public would expect nothing less."

British Airways said in a statement late on Friday: "We remain ready and willing to return to talks with BALPA."

However in a move to curb strike action, the airline has warned its pilots that they would lose staff travel benefits for three years if they were to stage a walkout, the Financial Times reported on.ft.com/2Lv9Ho2 on Friday citing an internal email seen by the newspaper.

"We make no apology for doing everything we can to protect our customers from further disruption," a British Airways spokesman told Reuters in response to the Financial Times report.

On Thursday, BA dismissed a proposal by a pilots union to avoid strike action next week as "unrealistic", leaving it little closer to resolving the dispute. BALPA had said it would call off the strikes this week if BA had engaged with the offer. (Reporting by Kylie MacLellan and Alistair Smout in London, Akshay Balan in Bengaluru; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alistair Bell)

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