The threat of a damaging pilots' strike causing chaos at Birmingham International and other airports loomed closer yesterday. Pilots' union Balpa announced that pilots at two more divisions of the BMI airline had voted overwhelmingly for strike action in a row over pay.

This followed the decision by pilots of the airline's low-fare carrier BMIbaby to vote for a strike.

Balpa said pilots in BMI mainline, the original division of the company which flies a major part of its operation out of Heathrow, voted by 89 per cent to 11 per cent to take strike action in a 92 per cent poll.

Pilots in BMI regional voted by 86 per cent to 13 per cent to take strike action in a 97 per cent poll. Some days ago, BMIbaby pilots voted 73 per cent for and 27 per cent against industrial action. Balpa will now decide when strikes will take place, although union-management talks are scheduled for next week.

Balpa general secretary Jim McAuslan said: "Although there are separate and specific issues of dispute in each division, the over-arching concern is that the company is bulldozing through change."

He went on: "Pilots are highly professional people but in BMI they feel they are not appreciated. There is a total lack of respect.

"Pilots in BMIbaby had their take-home pay cut without any consultation whatsoever. Pilots in BMI mainline are having their pension scheme contributions increased from ten per cent to 18.5 per cent. Pilots in BMI regional have poor roster arrangements. BMI pilots are saying is enough is enough."