Dozens of flights cancelled as 10-day strike begins at Heathrow

Security workers on a picket line at the start of a 10-day strike at Heathrow Airport - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg
Security workers on a picket line at the start of a 10-day strike at Heathrow Airport - Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Dozens of flights to and from Heathrow were cancelled on Friday as a 10-day strike began which promised to cause chaos to Easter holidaymakers.

More than 40 flights coming to and from Heathrow were cancelled on Friday, with Heathrow also warning travellers to expect longer than usual delays at the airport.

Some of these flights had been cancelled earlier in the week by British Airways but the airline has said more changes have now been made because of the Heathrow strikes, but also strikes in France and bad weather.

There had been hopes that last-minute talks on Thursday could stop terminal 5 security staff from taking industrial action across one of the airport’s busiest periods of the year, but these broke down. The strikes will now run until April 10 and are likely to lead to more cancellations.

Terminal 5 is the worst hit terminal with the Telegraph identifying more than 20 flights that had been cancelled on Friday. Around 43 flights in total from Heathrow had been scrapped so far on Friday.

The cancellations are expected to continue on Saturday, with the Telegraph identifying 24 flights to and from Heathrow that were showing as cancelled on its departures and arrivals list.

Cancelling hundreds of flights

Earlier this week, British Airways, which is the sole airline that services the terminal, confirmed that it would be cancelling hundreds of flights during the strike period.

Around five per cent of all of its planned flights will be cancelled over the 10-day period, which equates to around 16 round trips a day. The airline said the majority of cancellations would be for domestic and short-haul flights.

However, among those flights cancelled are long-haul journeys to New York City and Washington and other European destinations. Flights coming in from Kuwait and San Francisco have also been cancelled.

In a statement, British Airways confirmed that it would be making additional adjustments to its schedule. It said not all of the cancellations were due to the terminal 5 action, with the airline also restricted by Air Traffic Control strikes in France, and bad weather.

To try and mitigate the issues it is now looking to use bigger aircraft on operating flights, to move as many people as possible.

In an update to passengers on Friday, Heathrow said that the number of security lanes that were in operation would be reduced, while fast track security would also be reduced. Heathrow’s VIP suite will also be closed throughout the strike period.

It said that it was likely to take longer to get through security, and called on passengers to not come early for their flights. This means no earlier than three hours before a long-haul flight and two hours before a short-haul flight.

Airport moving staff from other areas

This comes despite John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s chief executive, saying the airport was operating as normal, with the airport moving staff from other areas of the business, including management staff, to fill the roles. In total more than 1,000 additional staff members have been brought in.

He said: “We also have some other agency, third party, workers who have come in to help us who are very experienced in this kind of security environment, and they’re keeping the airport running smoothly.

“So, Heathrow is operating as normal. If you’re travelling over the Easter period, don’t worry, you’ll have a good journey.”

Wayne King, Unite’s regional co-ordinating officer, said: “Heathrow Airport has thrown away the opportunity to avoid strikes.

“The strike action will undoubtedly result in severe delays and disruption to passengers across the airport but this dispute is a direct result of Heathrow Airport’s stubborn refusal to pay its workers fairly.”

Security guards who are responsible for the checking of all cargo entering the airport will also be striking across the 10-day period.

Heathrow said on Friday afternoon the airport was “operating as usual” with contingency plans in place.