Heathrow Ground Staff Are Going On Strike

Filed Under: Unions

Update: Day one of the Heathrow strike has been called off.

This has the potential to be a really bad month for Heathrow travelers. Not only are British Airways pilots on the verge of going on strike, but Heathrow ground staff are also going on strike, unless a last minute deal can be worked out.

The second strike isn’t specific to British Airways, but rather involves employees of the airport.

Basics of the Heathrow strike

If you’re flying out of Heathrow this coming Monday or Tuesday, good luck. Strikes are planned for August 5-6 and August 23-24, though we’ll see if either or both of those happen. A strike had also been planned for last week, but was called off last minute.

The airport will still be operating, but there will be significant restrictions in place. Let’s use British Airways as an example, since they’re the largest airline there. British Airways is advising passengers:

  • The number of security lanes will be reduced, and Fast Track lanes, as well as the First Wing, won’t be operational
  • You won’t be able to carry-on bags; instead you’ll only be allowed to take one small personal item of hand baggage, and everything else needs to be checked
  • You can change your itinerary if you’re traveling through Heathrow on August 5 or 6, though you need to rebook between August 1 and 12

British Airways Heathrow First Wing

Meanwhile Virgin Atlantic is rerouting some of their flights. Select Virgin Atlantic flights will operate to Gatwick instead of Heathrow, to avoid this mess.

Virgin Atlantic 787

Beyond that:

  • A lot of flights will have limited catering, so don’t expect the usual food & beverage service on some flights
  • Over 170 flights will need to be canceled, though it hasn’t yet been revealed what those flights will be; I guess they’re still hoping to reach a deal
  • Passengers are told to arrive two to three hours before their flight, even if they already have their boarding passes

London Heathrow terminal

What the union says

In a press release, the union behind the strike notes that they believe the strike will cost the airport £2.3 million in terms of compensation that needs to be paid to the airline, and if the strike later in the month happens, that bill could total £4.6 million. As the Unite regional coordinating officer explains:

“All the indications are pointing to an overwhelming rejection by our members of the revised offer which, in reality, offers little more than the £3.75 extra a day that the original offer did for many workers.

If members do reject the pay offer and Heathrow bosses dig their heels in, then there is a risk the airport is seen to prefer paying millions in compensation to airlines and needlessly causing misery for the travelling public, instead of sorting the dispute by going the extra mile and giving its workforce a decent pay rise.

Our low paid members will sacrifice a day’s pay if they go on strike and are only too aware of the disruption it will cause. However, they are at a point where they have had enough with being given crumbs while shareholders pocket billions in dividends and the chief executive enjoys a pay rise of over 100 per cent.

To add insult to injury they are also having to contend with widening pay disparities leading to airport security guards employed after 2014 earning up to £6,000 less than colleagues hired before that date.

If, as expected, our members reject the revised pay offer, then we would urge Heathrow Airport’s bosses to take the sensible option to end this dispute. Rather than pay millions in compensation to airlines and punish workers and passengers alike, talk with us at Acas and use that money for an improved pay offer which better reflects the hard work of the workers who keep the airport running safely and smoothly.

If Heathrow refuses to increase the money on offer we have to start wondering if, for them, this is really about money or is it about just taking on Unite?”

Bottom line

It remains to be seen how much of a mess this strike will lead to. Some flights will be canceled and you won’t be able to take carry-ons with you. Beyond that, though, I’m not sure if we’re talking about everything just moving a bit more slowly than usual, or if this is going to be complete chaos, with six hour lines for everything.

The fact that the airport says arriving two to three hours early is sufficient suggests to me it won’t be too bad.

If you’re flying through Heathrow on Monday or Tuesday, good luck…

  1. CX251 (5 Aug departure) and the returning 252 (6 Aug return) are being rerouted to Gatwick and with revised schedules ‍♂️

  2. I’m arriving LHR from JMK on Tuesday 6 Aug and when I called BA customer service (thinking to change flight to arrive LCY) the agent put me on hold for a while, then came back and said the flight would be “in no way affected” so it seems like just departures and connections and that Mykonos isn’t short-haul enough or something.

  3. I’ve changed my plans for Monday which included a connection in LHR from MAN. I get why BA are telling passengers that they will have to check practically all of their baggage, but extending that to passengers connecting at LHR, just highlights the madness of not having any ‘clean’ airside connections between terminals: it just adds to the mess at security.

    If I was doing a T5-T5 connection, arriving as a domestic passenger, I wouldn’t have to re-clear security, so the dire “check almost everything” warning seems a bit OTT. On the other hand my original plans included a T5-T3 connection, meaning that I would have to re-clear security even though I’d been screened to UK requirements in MAN. Even on non-strike days that is a hassle, but at times like Heathrow are having to deal with at the moment, it’s just crazy.

  4. if they don,t like the pay, thats one thing, but to hold holiday makers 95% workers, i would think, is another, id sue the unions,

  5. LHR workers go on strike?????????????

    I wonder where all my Air Passenger Duty went to?
    The ugliest tax we have paid (robbed). And nobody ever can tell why premium passengers should pay more other than because can charge (extort).

    Brits should have voted for Ed Sheeran not Boris Johnson.
    Americans (and NYkers) beware AOC is even worse than that Boris the clown.

  6. You can thank Thatcher for the current predicament. If LHR were still government owned, you can be assured that politicians would be more eager to prevent these issues. Certainly more willing to negotiate than a greedy corp.

    Good for the workers; they should be fairly compensated for their work. Good luck to LHR if they think they can make money without workers.

    Frankly, it’s ridiculous that LHR is privately owned. As a vital piece of public infrastructure, it should be run for the public benefit (including the benefit of its workers), not shareholder profits. The public paid to build up LHR, yet a few oligarchs reap the benefits. Must be nice.

    That said, the current government is not much better. They’d probably privatize the royals if their cronies could make a buck.

  7. The best thing about these posts is the number of people who make amazing contributions by saying things like “hope this won’t affect my upcoming trip in F,” completely satisfying the demand from the rest of us to know that you’ll be completely comfortable on your upcoming flights.

  8. Nice little Airport you have here. It’d be a shame if something bad should happen to it. Don’t be late with our ‘protection’ money. 😉

  9. Thank you Union workers for making travel even more stressful. May you enjoy your day off without pay. I hope your day of irresponsibility does not negatively impact my ability to conduct meetings so that I may make my own living wage.
    With love
    Business travelers
    p.s. I guess the t3 bathroom will be even more disgusting

  10. @theluxurytraveller

    Beyond advertising to all and sundry your class of travel and painting a pretty picture of liquid breakfasts and sunrises over Heathrow, is there anything you wish to add to this conversation? Anything meaningful, that is?


    Thanks for the heads-up, Ben. Booked on a QF ultra long haul, so it will be ‘interesting’ to see if and to what extent catering is affected.

  11. Article fails to mention the pay of CEO of Hetahrow is about to double from £2m to £4m. It has a lot to do with this strike and I fully support the workers here, even though I may be travelling on these days.

  12. It’s (still) a very British thing to have an under-class; how else could you have a proper upper-class? Part of that deal is to poorly pay the peasants. In the rare times when airlines are making record profits it is fair to reward those who make that possible from day-to-day. And no, I’m not thinking of CEO’s and the like who just happen to be in the right place at the right time.

    We all know he’s out at the airport pre-dawn because the LCC 49 quid flight in Y to Majorca he’s on departs super-early. The liquid breakfast he refers to is a vending machine coffee in a styrafoam cup too.

  13. Militant unions will lose support if they disrupt peoples flight plans. I do think this group is more deserving than the BA pilots nonetheless.

  14. Slight correction, BA says “You can change your itinerary if you’re travelling SHORTHAUL through Heathrow on August 5 or 6”
    Long-haul? Too bad, get in line, without carry-on

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