This is the young militant pilot behind plans for a crippling British Airways strike that could ruin the summer holidays of thousands of families.
Hardliner Mark Keane last year helped pilots at Ryanair to win union recognition and he is now threatening to land a devastating blow against BA.
Mr Keane, who has been a pilot with BA for four years, is pushing ahead with a strike at the height of the summer break that could see hundreds of flights cancelled.
Pilots’ union Balpa is demanding a better deal from BA, having rejected an offer of an 11.5 per cent rise over three years. BA’s 4,500 pilots earn on average £100,000 a year.
Hardliner: Mark Keane, pictured with a colleague at a 2017 international conference, is now threatening to land a devastating blow against BA
Mr Keane, who lives in Dublin and commutes to Heathrow, became chairman of Balpa’s BA branch – known as the British Airways Company Council – earlier this year after an investigation by The Mail on Sunday revealed how his predecessor had sent a pornographic image of a man having sex with a chicken to five other union reps.
Airline sources claim Mr Keane – who is in his late 20s – is part of a new generation of militant BA pilots, many of whom were recruited in recent years from budget airlines and are now agitating for better pay and perks.
‘There is a bit of culture war going on,’ said one BA captain. ‘You’ve got the young lads that have come in and some of us more established pilots are saying, ‘Hold on, you signed these contracts and now you want to muscle your way into more money and better conditions.’ ‘
Mr Keane joined Ryanair in 2010 and was forced to apologise to the airline three years later when he was unmasked as the author of anonymous and false comments on a pilots’ forum about its safety procedures.
Pilots’ union Balpa is demanding a better deal from BA, having rejected an offer of an 11.5 per cent rise over three years (stock image)
He flew with Norwegian for two years before becoming a BA 747 pilot in 2015. Sources say he soon became influential within Balpa by quietly helping persuade his former colleagues at Ryanair to join the pilots’ union.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, declared in 2017 that ‘hell will freeze over’ before the firm was unionised, but last year he was forced to formally recognise Balpa in the face of threatened strike action.
Having helped to humble one Irishman, Mr Keane has his sights on another – Willie Walsh, boss of the International Airlines Group, the owner of BA.
BA says industrial action by its pilots could cost it £40 million a day and affect some 130,000 passengers daily.
Balpa has not yet set a date for strikes and talks about action will resume this week. Balpa also recently balloted its Ryanair pilots for strike action in a dispute over working conditions. The result is due on Wednesday.
Mr Keane was last year embroiled in controversy after forwarding an offensive email featuring pictures of blacked-up actors from The Black And White Minstrel show, broadcast in the 1970s, with a caption reading: ‘Ahhh. The Black And White Minstrel Show. Wouldn’t be able to get away with that these days…’
He was accused of forwarding the email to about 45 reps, but last night insisted he had been asked by a Balpa employee to forward it ‘to bring attention to what was viewed to be inappropriate behaviour’.
Balpa said: ‘Our reps are strongly supported by the mass of BA pilots who have voted overwhelmingly to reject BA’s pay offer and in favour of industrial action.’
Heathrow holidaymakers left in dark
Angry holidaymakers say they have been left ‘completely in the dark’ about whether flights from Heathrow will be cancelled this week.
Of the 2,600 flights scheduled for tomorrow and Tuesday, 177 are set to be axed because of a 48-hour strike over pay by 2,500 security staff, engineers and firefighters.
However, the airport refused to publish a list of cancellations and told passengers to check with their airlines instead.
Virgin Atlantic issued a list of 15 flights that will either depart or arrive at Gatwick instead of Heathrow, but many other airlines have failed to provide passengers with information.
Mehmet Kadioglu, 45, who is due to fly with Thai Airways to Bangkok tomorrow with his wife Danuta, said: ‘We have a holiday in jeopardy and we are completely in the dark.’