Holiday hell at Heathrow: Millions face summer travel misery after BA staff vote to strike

23 June 2022, 14:44 | Updated: 23 June 2022, 17:16

  • 700 BA staff at Heathrow to strike over pay
  • GMB blames "pig-headedness" of BA for looming travel chaos
  • RMT union strikes bring misery to millions on the rail network as second day of strikes continue
  • Rail workers to walkout for third day of strikes on Saturday - and further action 'not ruled out' this summer
BA staff at Heathrow have voted to go on strike as the second day of rail strikes hit the country.
BA staff at Heathrow have voted to go on strike as the second day of rail strikes hit the country. Picture: Shutterstock/Alamy/Stuart Dempster

By Sophie Barnett

Brits face holiday hell this summer after British Airways staff at Heathrow voted to strike and further railway walkouts were not ruled out.

BA check-in and ground staff at the West London airport voted to strike in a GMB and Unite backed ballot on Thursday.

Members of the GMB voted by 91% in favour of industrial action while Unite said 94% of its members backed action.

The vote means 700 members of staff are set to walk out during the peak holiday period in a dispute with the airline over pay.

News of the walkout comes as RMT rail workers stage a second day of strike action in the UK, causing misery for millions of commuters.

Members of the RMT union walked out on Tuesday and Thursday this week - with their third day of action set to go ahead on Saturday.

Read more: Strike talks frustration: Millions face travel misery after union 'unable to talk'

Read more: Luggage chaos at Heathrow as passengers told they may not get bags back for 2 days

The RMT is striking in a row over pay, working conditions and compulsory redundancies, and general secretary Mick Lynch said he he can't rule out further action.

Similarly, the GMB union is set to strike in a pay row with BA.

It said a 10 per cent pay cut imposed by the airline during Covid has not been restored and there is fury over BA using "fire and rehire" practices to cut workers' pay during the pandemic.

The strike action is likely to be during the school holidays, which runs from mid-July to the beginning of September.

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, blamed the "pig-headedness" of British Airways for the looming disruption at Heathrow.

"With grim predictability, holiday makers face massive disruption thanks to the pig-headedness of British Airways," she said.

Read more: Spain's easyJet cabin crew to strike for 9 days in July over pay row

The "enormous luggage carpet" was pictured at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2.
An "enormous luggage carpet" was pictured at Heathrow Airport Terminal 2 last week. Picture: Stuart Dempster

“BA have tried to offer our members crumbs from the table in the form of a 10 per cent one off bonus payment, but this doesn’t cut the mustard.

“Our members need to be reinstated the 10 per cent they had stolen from them last year with full back pay and the 10% bonus which other colleagues have been paid.

“GMB members at Heathrow have suffered untold abuse as they deal with the travel chaos caused by staff shortages and IT failures.

“At the same time, they’ve had their pay slashed during BA’s callous fire and rehire policy.

“What did BA think was going to happen?

“It’s not too late to save the summer holidays – other BA workers have had their pay cuts reversed, do the same for ground and check in staff and this industrial action can be nipped in the bid.”

Read more: 'Mick Lynch is inspirational': Frustrated NHS doctor says she'd strike if given the chance

Queues at Heathrow airport earlier this month.
Queues at Heathrow airport earlier this month. Picture: Alamy

Workers, including check-in staff, will now decide on strike dates, which the union said were likely to be held during the peak summer holiday period.

Unite officer Russ Ball said: "The problems British Airways is facing are entirely of its own making. It brutally cut jobs and pay during the pandemic even though the Government was paying them to save jobs.

"In the case of this dispute, they have insulted this workforce, slashing pay by 10% only to restore it to managers but not to our members.

"BA is treating its loyal workforce as second class citizens and they will not put up with it a moment longer.

Fresh rail strikes will take place today as the rift between the RMT union and rail bosses widens.
Fresh rail strikes will take place today as the rift between the RMT union and rail bosses widens. Picture: Getty

"Strike action will inevitably cause severe disruption to BA's services at Heathrow.

"The company has a short window of opportunity to reinstate our members' pay before strikes are called. I urge BA not to squander that opportunity."

Heathrow is currently running at two-thirds of the passenger levels seen before the pandemic and has experienced issues in recent weeks with baggage delays.

A technical glitch at the airport led to a "carpet of luggage" building up in Terminal 2 last week and meant some passengers were left without their bags for days.

The malfunction meant many passengers had issues checking in, and some of those who departed from Terminal 2 travelled without their luggage.

Elsewhere, travel plans could be thrown into further chaos as easyJet staff in Spain confirmed plans to strike across nine days in July.

The disruption to services could add to travel chaos seen at UK airports in recent weeks as the industry struggles to cope following the coronavirus pandemic and crippling staff shortages.

Local union USO said workers will walk out on three weekends in July, the 1-3, 15-17, and 29-31, demanding a 40 per cent rise in basic salary.