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Airport Staff At London's Heathrow To Strike In Run-Up To World Cup

By Dave Simpson

Hundreds of workers at London's Heathrow airport will walk out in the run-up to the soccer World Cup this month over demands for better pay, a British union has said.

Details

Unite said 700 workers involved in ground-handling, airside transport and cargo, and employed by Emirates Group's airport services subsidiary dnata and Menzies, will strike for three days starting from 18 November.

The World Cup in Qatar starts on 20 November.

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"Strike action will inevitably cause disruption, delays and cancellations to flights throughout Heathrow, with travellers to the World Cup particularly affected," Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said in the statement.

The union said the strike action would lead to disruption, cancellations and delays at Heathrow terminals 2, 3 and 4. It said Qatar Airways, which has scheduled an additional 10 flights a week during the World Cup, would be particularly affected.

Other airlines including Virgin, Singapore Airlines, Cathay-Pacific and Emirates will also be hit, Unite said.

dnata said it was implementing contingency plans to minimise disruption from the walkouts, and that it was committed to reaching a "mutually acceptable agreement for all parties".

"The increase in salary suggested by Unite is irresponsible and would undoubtedly impact our business' ability to operate in the best interest of our workforce in the long term," dnata said, adding that its UK airport operations business was making a loss each month due to challenging conditions.

Menzies said it was willing to continue pay discussions, adding that Unite was refusing to join the discussions.

Heathrow, the country's busiest airport, said it was in talks with its airline partners on what contingency plans they could implement to support their ground handling if the strikes were to go ahead.

"Our priority is to ensure passengers are not disrupted by airline ground handler shortages," said the airport.

Heathrow Airport Says Return To Pre-Pandemic Demand Years Away

The above news followed news that Britain's biggest airport, Heathrow, reported a nine-month loss of £442 million and warned it was unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for several years.

"Headwinds of a global economic crisis, war in Ukraine and the impact of COVID-19 mean we are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for a number of years, except at peak times," it said.

The loss for the nine months to 30 September added to losses of £4 billion in the prior two years as regulated income failed to cover costs.

Revenue trebled to £2.1 billion, with the rebound in travel from pandemic lows partly offset by the hub's self-imposed daily cap of 100,000 passenger departures.

The cap, which limited flight cancellations as the airport struggled to cope with the bounce back in travel due to labour shortages, was removed from 30 October.

Heathrow, situated west of London, said it was working with airlines to agree a mechanism that, if needed, would align supply and demand on peak days in the lead up to Christmas.

The airport forecast that total passenger numbers for 2022 would reach between 60 to 62 million, about 25% fewer than 2019.

Earlier this month, Heathrow warned of a possible slowdown in travel demand this winter due to the deteriorating economic outlook, the impact of a new wave of COVID-19 and the escalating situation in Ukraine.

Heathrow said to be able to meet demand at peak times businesses across the airport needed to recruit and train up to 25,000 security cleared people.

"We...are working with airlines and their ground handlers to get back to full capacity at peak times as soon as possible," said CEO John Holland-Kaye.

News by Reuters, edited by Hospitality Ireland. Click subscribe to sign up for the Hospitality Ireland print edition.

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