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Heathrow strike: Everything you need to know about the planned industrial action




A two-day strike at Heathrow involving security guards, firefighters, engineers and other workers begins at one minute past midnight on Monday, August 5, and continues until 23.59 on Tuesday.

Already 177 flights have been canceled – but one big problem is that no one seems to know who they are.

Our travel correspondent, who has witnessed many episodes of disturbances on Heathrow, considers the likely impact.

These are the most important questions and the best answers of our time.

What is the strike about?

Employees who are directly employed at Heathrow Airport and belong to Unite Union, including security officers, firefighters and engineers, are at odds with the employer for pay. They say they are not reasonably rewarded and that Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye earns in two days what some of the lowest-paid airport workers earn in a year.

Negotiations on the last ditch continue. A spokeswoman for Heathrow said on Saturday: "Unite has rejected our revised pay offer today. Although disappointed, we will continue to seek a deal in Acas tomorrow.

“Unite continues its unnecessary strike action on August 5 and 6, and we regret that passengers who want to get away on well-deserved family vacations will be affected. ”

Industrial measures are also scheduled for August 23 and 24, unless an agreement is reached.

What is the possible effect?

When the strike series was first called, the union was warned: "Summer travel chaos at Heathrow airport is getting big … in a move that could potentially close the airport." Complete closure looks unlikely; the airport promises "contingency plans that will ensure that the airport remains open and operating safely."

But Heathrow is the world's busiest airport with two runways, and has very little slack in the system. If travelers are delayed with security and arrive late, the airline must choose to keep the aircraft on the ground – which will trigger problems later in the day – or depart without any passengers on board, with all the problems that will create.

Or if a reduction in fire coverage forces down the closure of one of the two runways, the entire Heathrow operation can quickly begin to loosen.

The second variable is how many of around 2,500 employees have been working at home Monday and Tuesday. Some airlines are tentative on cancellations on Tuesday, waiting to see what happens on Monday.

Which airlines will be most affected?

British Airways, which has more than half of Heathrow's flights, is far more exposed than anyone else because the vast majority of the business involves flying people to and from Europe's busiest airport.

If Lufthansa or Air France meet a long delay at Heathrow, it only affects a small part of the operation. But for BA, any significant disruption, as we have seen this summer for reasons like air traffic control or weather, can quickly lead to many dozens of cancellations. Significant disruption will cost the airline several tens of millions of pounds.

Virgin Atlantic, which also loses millions on its lucrative long-haul flights in August, is trying to minimize problems by switching airports – moving some New York, Atlanta and Boston flights from Heathrow to Gatwick.

British Airways A350 aircraft arrive at Heathrow

What mitigations are planned at Heathrow?

The goal is to reduce the scale of the problem by canceling 177 flights in prevention, touching around 30,000 people and representing 7 percent of the total number of arrivals and departures.

Annoying to many passengers, the exact flights have not yet been revealed. Airlines will make their own choices. BA says it will notify affected travelers on Sunday.

On a normal day, Heathrow has around 1,300 flights carrying 220,000 people.

If as many potential passengers as possible are prepared to change dates (or airports), the effects will be damp. British Airways allows short-haul passengers to take flights from Gatwick or London City instead, or change departure dates to any time until August 12. But there are precious few available seats on some flights at this time of year you can switch to.

One airline, Flybe, can take the most unusual step of flying planes from Heathrow to avoid the risk of delays. Four services to Edinburgh and one to Newquay can be canceled; the planes will fly out normally and return with a full passenger jacket.

How will the airport experience be different on Monday and Tuesday?

First, you are expected to get there earlier. Heathrow recommends arriving at the terminal two hours before departure for short-haul flights and three hours ahead for long-haul flights (for one side, I'm not sure why there should be a difference; everyone has to go through the same queues, and in my experience long-haul passengers have less cabin luggage and therefore tend to be faster).

The next time you fly on British Airways, you will be asked to check in anything but a small shoulder bag or backpack. BA says there will be no fee to check in what would be cabin luggage under normal circumstances.

Then you will discover how bad – or agile – things are going.

Wouldn't it make sense to turn up even earlier?

Individually, yes: arrived at 5am, could see the security search lines at their shortest.

Compound, no.

As we have seen on previous occasions, if everyone decides to get ridiculously early, chaos results. Some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy can be thought of as bringing the airport to a standstill.

What if your plane gets interrupted – or you miss it because you're stuck in the queue?

Normally, airlines do not take any responsibility for the aircraft missed due to long security queues. But I think it will be different this time around, with flexibility shown to passengers who are unable to reach the gate on time; they will probably be booked on the next available flight.

Please note that this is not a legal obligation and therefore passengers in this position cannot expect to be flown to another airline.

The flight canceled is very different. The airline is obliged to get you to your destination as soon as possible – which could mean flying you from another airport in London at another airline, which they have to pay for.

Will passengers whose aircraft are canceled receive compensation? [19659012] Since the reason for the current cancellations and any future disruption is not the fault of the airlines, there is no right to a cash payment in accordance with European air travel rules.

What are your rights if you miss a connection as a result of delays at Heathrow?

If you are traveling with an end-to-end ticket, e.g. Heathrow-Dubai-Singapore or Heathrow-Chicago – Nashville, but you are late for the further connection, you will be protected. If the first flight is canceled, you may find yourself taken back to the final destination. However, if you have purchased the further flight separately, such as a separate booking from Dubai to India, there is no compensation.

What about people who have booked a hotel or cruise: will they be able to claim travel insurance for some loss?

If the hotel or cruise was booked as part of a package in the same transaction, the travel company must help you sort out a new flight or give you a full refund.

If, on the other hand, you purchased the holiday items separately, then your only hope is travel insurance. The difficulty with small print will reveal if you are covered for "consequential loss".

Meanwhile, the threat of a British Airways pilot attack still threatens …

Yes, but the two sides are talking next week, and I don't expect to announce strike action unless and until these talks break. Everyone who flies through August 19 should be fine.



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