Roadblock may hinder Oak Grove band's Europe trip

December 16, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
A threatened strike against British Airways could ruin holiday vacations for thousands of travelers and might also spoil the trip of a lifetime for dozens of marching band students from San Jose. They were counting on making it to Europe to play in two high-profile parades.

Members of San Jose's Oak Grove High School marching band are practicing for their upcoming trip to Europe. They will be participating in two holiday parades, one in Paris on New Year's Eve and another in London on New Year's Day. They have been raising money for the trip for more than a year.

Band member Daniel Zhytnik described the band had been "Working at random odd jobs across the city to try and pay off this trip. It was very hard."

Nevertheless, thousands of miles away, workers of British Airways are preparing to strike. Barring a deal or a court injunction, the 12-day work stoppage is scheduled to start on Tuesday -- throwing this marching band's travel plans up in the air. A third of the students booked their flight on British Airways.

"I understand where the people who are going on strike are coming from, but for us this is a chance of a lifetime for us to be able to perform in front of 750,000 people along the streets of downtown London," said band director Chris Moura.

During this time of year, British Airways operates 650 flights and carries 90,000 passengers each day. A walkout would likely ground most of its planes, but Chris McGinnis, editor of the Bat Travel Blog, says it may not have to come to that.

"I really think they're going to have a difficult time getting the traveling public on their side. They could have chosen to strike at another time when it wasn't going to affect millions of families trying to see their loved ones. They could have done it in January or February," said McGinnis.

The Oak Grove marching band, though, isn't taking any chances. They're coming up with a contingency plan. They say while it may involve an extra stop and added travel time, at least they'll get there.

"I just hope we get to go and nothing bad happens," said band member Jaelisa Siqueiros.

As for British Airways, analysts estimate the carrier will lose nearly $50 million a day during the strike. It is already one of the airlines hardest hit by the global recession.


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