Passengers and British Airways management heaved a sigh of relief as the 12-day strike by cabin crew of the airlines over the Christmas period was declared illegal by the high court here.

The judge agreed with British Airways that the cabin crew’s union, Unite, had not correctly balloted its members on the proposed strike against job losses and pay freeze.

The injunction means that the strike now cannot go ahead.

If the strike had gone ahead, thousands of passengers to and from India and elsewhere would have been adversely affected over the holiday period.

Unite called it “a disgraceful day for democracy” and said it would hold a fresh ballot of cabin crew if the dispute with British Airways was not resolved.

“There is something wrong with the law,” said Unite joint general secretary Derek Simpson.

The judge, Mrs Justice Cox, said, “A strike of this kind over the 12 days of Christmas is fundamentally more damaging to British Airways and the wider public than a strike taking place at almost any other time of the year.”

British Airways said the decision would be welcomed by “hundreds of thousands of families in the UK and around the world”.

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