British Airways reaches deal to avert Heathrow strikes

·3 min read
Passengers queue inside the departures terminal of Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London - HENRY NICHOLLS /REUTERS
Passengers queue inside the departures terminal of Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport in London - HENRY NICHOLLS /REUTERS

British Airways has averted a summer strike at Heathrow airport after caving to union demands of a pay rise close to 10pc.

Plans for around 700 British Airways check in staff to walk off the job have been dropped after BA improved its wage offer in talks with unions. It is understood the new pay deal largely meets demands for a reversal of a 10pc pay cut imposed during the pandemic.

Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said: “All our members - who are predominantly low paid women - wanted was to be given back the pay cuts BA imposed on them during the pandemic, threatening them with fire and rehire if they said no.”

Unions will now ballot around 700 British Airways check in staff to see if they support the pay deal agreed in talks on Wednesday. Unite and GMB Union have been negotiating with the airline on behalf of members.

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “We welcome that BA has finally listened to the voice of its check-in staff. Unite has repeatedly warned that pay disputes at BA were inevitable unless the company took our members’ legitimate grievances seriously.”

The planned strike threatened to trigger even more disruption for BA customers who have been hit with delays and flight cancellations this summer. The strike will not mean any cancellations already announced will be reversed.

A spokesman for British Airways said: “We are very pleased that, following collaboration with the unions, they have decided not to issue dates for industrial action. This is great news for our customers and our people.”

British Airways reached the agreement after cutting more than 10,000 additional flights this summer.

The airline has axed another tranche of short-haul flights in a move that will hit around one million customers flying to popular destinations in France, Spain, Greece and elsewhere.

Rival airline Jet2 yesterday blamed airports for the summer holiday chaos, saying they had failed to properly prepare for the return of air travel as pandemic restrictions eased.

The low-cost airline said airports were “woefully ill-prepared and poorly resourced”. The company also criticised ground handlers for delivering “often atrocious customer service”, and criticised long queues for security searches.

Executive chairman Philip Meeson said many of the company’s suppliers had been unwilling to invest in the run up to the summer season.

Mr Meeson said: “Most of our 10 UK base airports have been woefully ill-prepared and poorly resourced for the volume of customers they could reasonably expect, as have other suppliers.”

He said this is “inexcusable, bearing in mind our flights have been on sale for many months and our load factors are quite normal”.

He added: “Theirs and the ground handling suppliers’ often atrocious customer service, long queues for security search, lack of staff and congestion in baggage handling areas, and the consequent airport congestion, together with the frequent lack of onboard catering supplies, have each contributed to a very much poorer experience at the start and finish of our customers’ holidays than they were entitled to expect.”

Jet2 issued the complaint as it revealed pre-tax losses had widened from £341.3m to £388.8m for the year to March 31.

The company has given staff an 8pc pay rise and will hand out an additional payment of £1,000 to employees at the end of the summer season.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of the Manchester Airport Group, said yesterday: “The pace of that recovery has brought its own challenges, and recruitment has taken longer and been more difficult than we anticipated.”

It came as the group, which also owns Stansted and East Midlands airports, announced a loss of £320m in 2021. Revenue dropped 80pc as Covid restrictions continued to hold back international travel.

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