British Airways passengers have been told to avoid airports as the clock counts down towards the start of a two-day pilot strike.

Members of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) will begin their walkout at midnight over a long-running dispute over pay, and most UK departures scheduled for Monday and Tuesday have been cancelled.

The union and the airline had both said they were willing to resume talks to end the stand-off, but – despite the respective offers and intervention from Downing Street – the strikes are going ahead as planned.

In an update posted on its website on Sunday morning, BA said its customer teams were working tirelessly to provide alternative options for affected travellers – including refunds and new flight dates.

Not only are those who were due to fly on Monday and Tuesday being advised not to go to the airport, there may be knock-on disruption for people with journeys planned for Sunday and Wednesday. This is because planes and pilots will likely need extra time to get back into the swing of normal operations.

What is the official advice from BA?

Passengers are asked to visit the FAQ section of the BA website and explore their options for refunds or rearranging flight plans in the Manage My Booking section – and call the airline if more information is needed.

Those who booked through a travel agent should contact them directly.

Why are the pilots going on strike?

Pilots have rejected a pay rise from BA worth 11.5% over the next three years, saying it is not in line with the healthy financials being enjoyed by the company.

They argue that they accepted far lower pay rises when the IAG-owned firm was not doing so well, but the airline has said the pilots enjoy world class salaries that are fair and generous.

By the end of the three years, BA says the average captain would be earning more than £200,000 a year.

But at the moment, co-pilots and those manning short-haul flights earn much lower than the £167,000 already earned by their long-haul counterparts.

Unions for other members of BA staff, such as cabin and ground crew, have accepted pay rises.

How many people will be affected?

With more than 4,000 pilots not going to work on Monday and Tuesday, BA is going to have to cancel most of the approximately 800 flights it would normally expect to run each day.

Some 145,000 passengers could fly on a single day, and BA chairman and chief executive Alex Cruz told Sky News last month that the strike action would destroy their travel plans.

What will happen next?

If there is no progress in talks between BA and BALPA, another strike is due to go ahead on 27 September.

BA has said it will be in contact with passengers in the next few weeks if their flight is affected, adding: We don’t underestimate the inconvenience caused, for which we are deeply sorry.

The union has insisted that it wants to return to the negotiating table, but its general secretary Brian Strutton has said its olive branch has so far not been taken up.

He said: The gap between what we’re asking for and BA is just £5m – much less than the £40m it will cost per day of strike action.

(c) Sky News 2019: British Airways strike: Passengers told to avoid airports ahead of two days of action