Travel Alert: Strikes Threaten Summer 2019 Travel in the United Kingdom
If you are traveling to, from or within the United Kingdom over the next month or so, you should know about several potential strikes which could affect your travel plans.
Travel Alert: Strikes Threaten Summer 2019 Travel in the United Kingdom
Although labor actions have been known to be averted due to either postponement or cancellation as a result of last-minute talks through which both sides reach an agreement — or, at least, schedule further talks — count on the possibility of them occurring to ensure that you are fully prepared if they indeed do happen.
Even if the strikes are averted — or if you are not directly affected by them if they do happen — you should still be prepared to experience at least some stressful situations during your travels.
What is somewhat unusual in this situation is that several strikes are possible — but then again, Unite — which is the largest union in the United Kingdom — is involved in the majority of them. Here is information about each of them.
London Gatwick Airport
According to this article from Unite, “a summer of disruption” is threatened at London Gatwick Airport as two separate groups of employees — including security workers — are currently voting on whether or not to strike due to salaries currently being so low that they are referred to as “poverty pay”; and the workers who scan baggage “are paid just £8.50 an hour and are seeking an increase of 50 pence an hour so that they are paid the real living wage of £9 an hour.”
The results are expected to be revealed on Friday, July 26, 2019. If the vote for industrial action is approved, “then strikes could begin in mid-August, which would inevitably create disruption” at the second-busiest airport in the United Kingdom.
No official word is available yet from management at the airport pertaining to contingency plans should industrial action occur.
Although industrial action due to a dispute in pay may occur at London Heathrow Airport during six days over the course of the next month, “contingency plans are in place to ensure the airport remains open & operating safely”, according to this message which was posted at the official Twitter account of the airport — but keep in mind that “passenger journeys” may still be affected.
Industrial action is due to take place 26-27 July. This may affect passenger journeys. Contingency plans are in place to ensure the airport remains open & operating safely, however we are committed to finding a solution. Please contact your airline for an up to date flight status pic.twitter.com/9XKcZ6If10
— Heathrow Airport (@HeathrowAirport) July 19, 2019
According to this article from Unite, greater than 4,000 workers — including security guards, engineers, passenger service operatives, and passenger service drivers — plan to walk off the job at the busiest airport in the United Kingdom on the following six days:
- Friday, July 26, 2019
- Saturday, July 27, 2019
- Monday, August 5, 2019
- Tuesday, August 6, 2019
- Friday, August 23, 2019
- Saturday, August 24, 2019
Industrial action is expected to commence from Thursday, July 25, 2019 on the eve of the peak holiday season and last over the course of five consecutive weekends, which could affect thousands of passengers of easyJet in the form of severe delays and possible cancellations of flights.
According to this article from Unite, the “low paid workers voted unanimously to strike over the company’s refusal to pay wages in line with similar companies at Stansted; the refusal to recognise Unite as a trade union for collective bargaining purposes; and a breakdown in industrial relations.”
Unless an agreement occurs at the last minute, 43 passenger service agents plan to walk off the job at Stansted Airport during the following five weekends totaling 17 days:
- Thursday, July 25, 2019 through Monday, July 29, 2019
- Friday, August 2, 2019 through Monday, August 5, 2019
- Friday, August 9, 2019 through Monday, August 12, 2019
- Friday, August 16, 2019 through Monday, August 19, 2019
- Friday, August 23, 2019 through Tuesday, August 27, 2019
British Airways Pilots
The British Airline Pilots’ Association — which is also known as BALPA — posted this announcement at its official Twitter account that a strike ballot amongst the pilots closes today, Monday, July 22, 2019.
Two days of conciliation talks at ACAS between BA and BALPA have broken down without agreement. A strike ballot among pilots closes on 22 July. (1/3)
— BALPA (@BALPApilots) July 9, 2019
If the majority of members approve support of industrial action, the strike could occur sometime in the middle of August — especially as talks had broken down after management reportedly offered the pilots a pay increase of 11.5 percent over three years.
If the pilots do go on strike, expect severe disruption with the operations of British Airways.
British Airways Crew
94 percent of the members of Mixed Fleet Unite — which is the union that represents members of the flight crews who are employed by British Airways and based at London Heathrow Airport — voted that they are willing to strike unless an acceptable pay deal is reached, according to this message which was posted at the official Twitter account of the union.
‘Despite the short ballot period of just a weekend, .@MFUnite once again showed our commitment to stand up for what we believe in and turned out in force …. we have remained committed to finding an acceptable pay deal & are available to meet #BritishAirways for resolution.’ pic.twitter.com/Nw9CMOybTC
— Mixed Fleet Unite (@MFUnite) July 15, 2019
Talks have broken down between British Airways and the union; so a strike is likely to occur — but this strike should only affect flights operated by British Airways out of London Heathrow Airport and have minimal impact — if any — on flights operated by British Airways out of London Gatwick Airport.
“This summer is poised to be a rough one for flyers on the leading alliance for US-UK flights”, according to this article written by Giovanni Hashimoto for Point Me to the Plane. “Paired with the crippling “slowdown” by mechanics at American Airlines, British Airways’ transatlantic partner, this seems to be a bad summer for transatlantic Oneworld travel.”
If the pilots of British Airways vote to go on strike and you were thinking of Ryanair as an alternative option, you may want to think again.
The ballot on which pilots of Ryanair are voting as to whether or not they should go on strike by the British Airline Pilots’ Association — which represents the pilots of Ryanair — is expected to close on Wednesday, August 7, 2019.
According to this official press release, the union “has tabled a detailed pay and conditions claim to try and resolve many outstanding areas of concern for pilots on issues such as pensions; loss of license insurance; maternity benefits; allowances; and a fair, transparent, and consistent pay structure. However, we have not been able to come to an agreement with the company in relation to any one of our concerns. Indeed, the company has not tabled any offers whatsoever.”
If all of the strikes come to fruition, traveling to, from or within the United Kingdom over the next 31 days will likely be nothing short of a nightmare. If you have travel plans during that period of time, consider postponing them or altering them with other options — and if that is not possible, then at least keep yourself aware of the latest updates pertaining to these potentially stressful situations.
Contact the airline on which you plan on traveling to find out if any refunds or travel waivers are being offered through which the dates of travel can be changed without any penalty.
The legislation of European Union regulation EC 261/2004 requires airlines operating in Europe to ensure that passengers are rebooked on flights to reach their final destinations at the earliest opportunity possible — even if those flights are operated by other airlines. That is another option which is available to you if you are affected by the aforementioned strikes. If you do decide to file a claim and the airline refuses it, you can complete and submit this complaint form…
…and as outlined in Article 9 of that regulation, you may also be eligible for what is known as Duty of Care during an extensive delay of your flight — which may include the reimbursement of such items as meals and lodging after you first pay for them.
If you do not plan to purchase travel insurance, at least use a credit card or charge card which offers purchase protection of flights, lodging and rental vehicles.
Ideally, all of the strikes will be averted and mutually beneficial compromises will occur to all concerned parties — but that scenario appears to not be likely with each day that passes…
All photographs ©2014 and ©2017 by Brian Cohen.