British Airways strike: how could industrial action affect flights from Heathrow?

Hundreds of British Airways ground staff working at London Heathrow have voted in favor of the strike over a pay dispute. Terminal 3 and 5 employees are expected to exit in July.

t comes as a limited number of Ryanair cabin crew threaten strikes in Portugal, Spain, Belgium and Italy, and airlines and airports struggle to meet travel demand.

These are important questions and answers.

Who are the employees of British Airways involved in this controversy?

Terminals 3 and 5 at Heathrow Airport employ 700 BA personnel known as “above the wing” ground staff. They work at check-in (before the security search), arrange bookings, check documents – including COVID tests and vaccination certificates – and walk the floors to help passengers.

Airside, they operate boarding gates and provide support for passengers. The majority are women, and they are represented by the GMB and Unite unions.

He has voted heavily for industrial action regarding wage claim.

Why are they striking?

During the downturn in aviation due to the coronavirus pandemic, their salaries were cut by 10 percent – in line with other groups of British Airways employees. BA has offered a one-time payment of 10 per cent this year, but employees want the cash to be reinstated in their basic pay.

GMB national official Nadine Houghton said 10 percent was “stolen from them last year” and “owners’ salaries have returned to pre-pandemic levels”.

In addition, she says, these front-line workers are often on the receiving end of verbal and sometimes physical abuse from passengers, with frequent confrontations at times of disruption.

“GMB members at Heathrow have faced untold abuse as they deal with travel chaos caused by staff shortages and IT failures,” she said.

British Airways says it is “extremely disappointed” with the result, adding that the 10 per cent bonus was made despite losses of more than £4bn (€4.65bn) during the coronavirus pandemic, and that the majority of other affiliates has been accepted by ,

When will they leave?

The union officials are yet to announce the dates. Since an employer must be given two weeks’ notice of industrial action, the earliest a stoppage may be is to begin on July 8.

Some insiders have suggested that the first bout of strike action could be as early as the weekend of 9 and 10 July, which coincides with the first weekend of the summer holidays for many public schools in England.

A British Airways insider said the intention was to disrupt the travel of high-spending customers. “They are expected to impact the family holidays of BA’s most important demographic, their frequent travellers,” the source said.

But the GMB says that “the dates for the industrial action will be confirmed in the coming days, but are likely during the peak period of the summer holidays”. If no announcement is made before the weekend, the start of the holiday for many schools in England and Wales is more likely to begin on Friday, 22 July.

What will be the effect?

Ms Houghton said: “Holidaymakers face massive disruption due to British Airways’ pig-heads.” The staff involved have gained a lot of expertise over the past two years from Heathrow to more than a hundred British Airways destinations about the COVID-19 travel restrictions, and operations that could accelerate if those investigations slow down.

BA may choose to pre-emptively cancel some flights from Heathrow to reduce pressure on the terminals.

But along with the ground staff involved in the controversy, BA also has several other employees playing a similar role. In addition, management and other employees may be prepared to cover.

The closest equivalent to the current dispute was an informal walk-out involving ground staff in 2005, in support of the catering workers. BA’s Heathrow operation was paralyzed on that occasion. But the far more passenger process is now automated.

In addition, after canceling thousands of departures due to lack of resources, British Airways is currently operating about 10 percent fewer flights than expected. This will reduce the pressure on operation.

Will the strike affect other British Airways locations?

Ground staff duties are outsourced to other locations in the capital Gatwick and the City of London and will have no effect. Disruptions at Heathrow will have a knock-on effect, from regional airports in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as overseas.

I booked with British Airways from Heathrow in July. How worried should I be?

It’s impossible to say at this stage. A compromise is entirely possible: the personnel involved are far from militant. British Airways says: “We are fully committed to working together to find solutions.”

The dates for the strike have not been announced, and BA has yet to outline its plans to deal with any standstill.

Under European air travellers’ rights rules, anyone whose flight is canceled is entitled to fly as soon as possible on any airline.

Giant travel agency Trailfinders is telling customers with advance bookings: “We are aware of the possibility of some British Airways employees going on strike this summer. Details will follow if it goes ahead.

“If your flight is affected we will contact you and do everything possible to find an alternative for you.”

can i do something now?

There is no point in calling or messaging British Airways, as the airline will have nothing to say beyond “Your flight is currently operating as normal”.

If your travel is time-critical, you can book an alternate flight – but you’ll only be able to get a refund if your flight takes off.

If the strike goes ahead, should I travel with hand luggage only?

If you can, it’s always a wise idea. You can bypass check-in, eliminating the possibility of a bag being accidentally sent to the other side of the world (or left behind at Heathrow); There is no need to wait for your luggage upon arrival; And you often save money.

British Airways has the most generous allowance of any UK airline, allowing two bags weighing 23 kg each. As a mitigation, passengers may be asked to bring only cabin baggage in the event of a strike.

But this in turn can cause problems: On already busy flights the overhead lockers are not able to handle all the baggage.

What does the government say?

Asked about the Heathrow dispute, a Downing Street spokesman said: “This is clearly a matter for British Airways and the unions, and we would strongly encourage the two to come together to find a settlement.

“We do not want to see any further disruption to the passengers. The strike action will add to the inconvenience caused to the passengers at the airports.

“The DFT will obviously work closely to see what contingency measures BA can take. We expect BA to take contingency measures to ensure that there is as little disruption as possible, and where there is disruption, passengers can be returned. ,