One of the largest airports in the world, London Heathrow, is facing the threat of a major strike that could lead to flight delays and disruptions which would seriously impact summer travel plans for thousands of travelers.
More than 4,000 airport employees, including customer service, engineers and security staff, have agreed to strike over disputes about pay. The staff operating with the Unite union, plan to walk out on July 26, July 27, Aug. 5, Aug. 6, Aug. 23, and Aug. 24, in a move that could potentially shut down the airport.
The summer holidays are in full swing, and weekends are the optimal time for families to travel, so the strikes have serious potential to cause severe delays and disruption, and could bring Heathrow to a standstill.
"There is deepening anger over pay among workers who are essential to the smooth running of Heathrow Airport," said Wayne King, the Unite union's regional coordinating officer.
Heathrow urged the union to return to the bargaining table to resolve the pay dispute.
“All our members are seeking is a pay deal that recognizes their important role in keeping passengers safe and on the move, in addition to a commitment by Heathrow bosses to close pay disparities which are leading to a high turnover of staff,” according to a statement from Unite.
What to do if your flight is disrupted
In the event of a strike, the airline does not have to pay its passengers compensation for any delays or cancellations that occur. However, compensation will be available for delays and cancellations following the strike. For example, if the strike is on the Saturday and disruption still occurs on the Sunday, then compensation may be available.
If the flight is canceled, passengers are entitled to a full refund of any unused tickets or rebooking onto the next available flight. The Civil Aviation Authority also states compensation is to be paid if the strike action involved the airlines employees and they have not given passengers at least two weeks’ notice prior to their flight.
Most travel insurance policies will offer a small amount of compensation to passengers affected by delays. This is usually per set period of time and up to a total amount — for example, £10 for every 12-hour period up to £100. Some policies will offer compensation for every 6-hour period, and the amount available will differ.
Travel abandonment may also be an option. Passengers who decide to cancel their holiday after a 24-hour or a 12-hour delay, depending on the policy, will be covered for cancellation.
As the dispute rumbles on, the airport said its contingency plans would ensure flights could still take off and land during one of the busiest periods of the year.
"We will be working alongside our airline partners to minimize disruption caused to passengers as they look towards their well-deserved summer holidays," according to a statement from London Heathrow Airport.