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Heathrow strike: Passengers warned of possible delays as security staff walk out

Members of the Unite union stand at a picket line near Heathrow Airport in London.
Members of the Unite union stand at a picket line near Heathrow Airport in London. Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Copyright AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
By Euronews Travel
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Unions claim the industrial action will cause 'inevitable disruption' but airport bosses say they have contingency plans in place to help passengers.

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Travellers are being warned that they could face disruption at Heathrow Airport in the UK as security staff go on strike over the coronation and bank holiday weekend. 

Around 1,400 members of the Unite union based at Terminal 5 begin the latest wave of walkouts today (4 May) after last-minute talks over a pay dispute broke down. 

Industrial action is scheduled from 4 to 6 May and again from 9 to 10 and 25 to 26 May.

Unite says Heathrow Airport is set for “May mayhem” warning that the industrial action will cause “inevitable disruption and delays”.

Will Heathrow strikes cause disruption to flights?

The strikes have the potential to cause disruption for millions of passengers travelling through the airport over the weekend of King Charles’s Coronation.

Heathrow bosses have advised people to check the status of their flight before travelling.  Passengers have been advised to arrive no earlier than two hours before short-haul flights and three hours before long-haul flights. 

Travellers will also only be able to bring two items of carry-on luggage through security on strike days. Handbags and laptop bags do count but checked baggage isn't affected. 

British Airways, the only airline that operates out of Terminal 5, is offering passengers the chance to check-in hand luggage for free to reduce pressure on security checkpoints.

REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
Passengers from international flights arrive at Heathrow Airport.REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo

Heathrow says it has managed to keep the airport running smoothly during previous industrial action, which involved around 1,400 security staff. The walkouts over the busy Easter weekend involved workers at Terminal 5 - which is used exclusively by British Airways - and guards responsible for checking cargo that enters the airport.

BA cancelled around 1 in 20 of its departuresand stopped selling tickets on previous strike days.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, says the “dispute is bound to escalate” with “disruption set to continue throughout summer.”

Heathrow says that it is "operating as usual" on Thursday morning with additional staff and contingency plans in place to assist passengers. 

Why are security staff at Heathrow going on strike?

The strikes are "a direct result of Heathrow's stubborn refusal to make an offer that meets our members' expectations," according to Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King. 

Heathrow has been offering a 10 per cent pay increase since January and recently improved the offer with a £1,150 (€1,300) lump sum this year.

But King says Unite members have been clear that they are seeking a substantial permanent increase in pay.

“A small one off lump sum payment will not alleviate the financial pressures our members are facing on a daily basis,” he adds.

“While the CEO can enjoy a lavish millionaire’s lifestyle, our members struggle to pay the bills and put food on the table. This is about need not greed.”

What other travel disruption is taking place over the Coronation weekend?

It isn’t the only strike happening over the bank holiday weekend. Traffic wardens in Westminster in central London are also walking out on the day of the Coronation in a dispute over pay and working conditions.

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Passport Office workers, represented by the Public and Commercial Services Union, are also walking out for four days from 2 to 6 May.

Nearly 2,000 passport examiners are already taking part in a rolling strike but will be joined by a further 1,000 staff including interviewers and those in administrative and anti-fraud roles.

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