Heathrow security officers announce 31 days of strikes

Strike action by security officers at London’s Heathrow airport this summer could lead to queues and flight delays.

Trade union Unite has announced 31 days of walkouts between 24 June and 27 August which will affect Terminals 3 and 5 as well as campus security.

The strikes will involve over 2,000 security officers and could impact a number of airlines, including British Airways, Virgin, Emirates, Qatar, United, American and Delta.

Unite said that workers had rejected a “below inflation pay offer of 10.1%”. It described the action as “a major escalation” in its pay dispute with the airport.

Research by the union suggests that since 2017, the average pay of Heathrow workers has fallen by 24% in real terms.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said that strike action at Heathrow will continue until the airport management makes a “fair pay offer”.

“This is an incredibly wealthy company, which this summer is anticipating bumper profits and an executive pay bonanza,” Graham added. “It’s also expected to pay out huge dividends to shareholders, yet its workers can barely make ends meet and are paid far less than workers at other airports.”

The strike dates coincide with busy times for travel including the Eid festival (28, 29 and 30 June), the beginning of the school holidays (21, 22, 23 and 24 July) and the August bank holiday (24, 25, 26 and 27 August).

A Heathrow spokesperson quoted by BBC News said that the airport will do everything it can to minimise disruption.

Heathrow reports busiest January since pandemic

More than 5.4 million passengers travelled through London’s Heathrow Airport last month.

It marks the airport’s busiest start to the year since since 2020, before Covid-19 was declared a pandemic.

While still below the six million people that passed through Heathrow in January 2020, the numbers reflect the gradual increase in national and international air travel over the past year.

The airport also said that its passenger satisfaction scores now meet or exceed 2019 levels, with 98% of passengers waiting less than 10 minutes for security last month.

Border control staff went on strike for several days in December, although Heathrow said that the disruption had been “successfully managed”. Military personnel and civil servants covered the work of around 1,000 Border Force staff, with duties including checking passports.

The employees are planning a further day of strike action on 15 March to coincide with the Budget.

Meanwhile, members of the Unite union who work as security guards, engineers and firefighters at Heathrow are voting on whether to go on strike over Easter.

More flights could be cancelled this summer, Heathrow warns

London’s Heathrow Airport asked airlines to cancel 61 flights on Monday and warned that further cuts are possible this summer.

The UK’s largest and busiest airport is trying to cope with soaring demand as passengers return after the pandemic.

Nearly 6 million passengers travelled through Heathrow in June, taking the total for the first six months of the year to 25 million passengers. In the last four months alone, Heathrow has experienced the equivalent of 40 years of passenger growth.

With the industry struggling to recruit staff after axing jobs during Covid lockdowns, tens of thousands of passengers have been affected by disruption and flight cancellations at airports across the UK.

Heathrow said that despite resource constraints for the airport, airlines, ground handlers and government agencies, most passengers have experienced a good level of service. It apologised for periods in recent weeks when service levels have dropped, with long queue times, delays for passengers with reduced mobility, and bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late.

“We will review the schedule changes that airlines have submitted in response to the government’s requirement to minimise disruption for passengers this summer and will ask them to take further action if necessary,” said Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye.

“We want everyone who is travelling through Heathrow to be confident that they will have a safe and reliable journey.”

Heathrow Airport’s pandemic losses top £4bn

Passenger numbers are up, but London’s Heathrow Airport will still not make a profit this year.

Revenue for the UK’s biggest airport in the first quarter of 2022 climbed to £516m and adjusted EBITDA turned positive to reach £273m. However, its total pandemic losses have now topped £4.0bn and the airport is not forecasting a return to profit and dividends in 2022.

Heathrow said it is currently seeing a “temporary increase” in demand after pandemic restrictions on travel were lifted, with 9.7 million passengers passing through the airport in the first quarter of 2022.

January and February were weaker than expected due to Omicron-related travel restrictions, but demand grew in March after the unexpectedly quick removal of all UK travel restrictions.

The airport has increased its 2022 passenger forecast from 45.5 million to 52.8 million, which represents a return to 65% of pre-pandemic traffic.

However, demand remains “very volatile” and passenger numbers are expected to drop off significantly after the summer.

“We are already seeing airlines cancelling services into the autumn and the realities of higher fuel costs, lower GDP growth, the war in Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic will drag on demand,” the airport said in a statement.

“We are still in a pandemic with many markets still closed, nearly 80% with testing and vaccination requirements, and another variant of concern could see the return of UK travel restrictions.”

Heathrow sees busiest month since March 2020

London’s Heathrow Airport has reported its busiest month since the start of the pandemic after travel restrictions were further eased.

The UK’s biggest airport handed 1.5 million passengers in July — up 74% compared with the same month a year ago and its highest monthly passenger numbers since March 2020.

However, passenger numbers are still down over 80% on pre-pandemic July 2019.

Heathrow was previously the busiest airport in Europe but it currently stands in 17th place, with several holiday airports well ahead in passenger numbers, the Independent reports.

The airport welcomed the signs of recovery but said that the cost of Covid-19 testing in the UK remains prohibitive for many travellers.

“Government must now capitalise on the vaccine dividend and seize the opportunity to replace expensive PCR tests with more affordable lateral flow tests,” said Emma Gilthorpe, chief operating officer of Heathrow Airport.

“This will ensure travel remains attainable for hardworking Brits, desperate for well-earned getaways and keen to reunite with loved ones before the summer travel window closes.”