As the Easter holidays approach, some British Airways passengers flying to and from Europe’s busiest airport, London Heathrow, are being told their flights have been cancelled.
With a strike by security staff planned to start next Friday, 31 March, the airline has been told to ground 32 of its planned departures on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. BA has also taken outbound flights off sale, even on departures where some seats are empty.
Around 1,400 members of the Unite union working in security at Heathrow airport are walking out from Friday 31 March until Easter Sunday, 9 April. The majority work at security checkpoints at Terminal 5, with others staffing control posts across the airport where vehicles go “airside”.
Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, says the Heathrow security staff are “on poverty wages” and “unable to make ends”. Heathrow insists the security staff have been given a 10 per cent pay rise plus “further enhancements”.
But talks broke down last week and no further negotiations are planned before the strike begins.
Here are the key questions and answers.
What effect could a strike have?
Friday 31 March, Saturday 1 April and Sunday 2 April are likely to be the days of maximum pressure at Britain’s busiest airport, with many schools breaking up ahead of Easter.
Taking so many professional, trained staff out of the system at a time of peak demand is bound to have an effect. Heathrow’s management says: “Our contingency plans will keep the airport operating as normal throughout.” But the airport adds: “As at any busy time, it may take a little longer than usual to get through security, but this will be well managed and kept flowing.”
It’s important to stress that Terminal 5 is the only terminal affected – which means passengers on all other airlines should not face problems. The same goes for British Airways passengers flying from Heathrow Terminal 3.
But some BA flights have been cancelled?
Yes, in a bid to reduce the number of passengers passing through security, and therefore cut the scope for congestion, British Airways has been ordered to cancel 5 per cent of flights that would normally operate at Terminal 5 over the first weekend of the industrial action.
That amounts to 32 departures (16 round trips) on each day, affecting around 5,000 passengers per day.
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