BRITS flying from Heathrow over the next few days could face delays or cancellations due to baggage handlers going on strike.
Ground staff will walk out at 4am tomorrow (December 16) for 72 hours as part of an ongoing pay dispute between union bosses and contractors.
The strikes are expected to hit flights operated by 10 major airlines departing from Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 4.
These include Air Canada, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Air Portugal, Austrian Airlines, Qantas, Egypt Air, Aer Lingus and Finnair.
The striking workers are employed by private contractor, Menzies Aviation who Unite say need to make a “fair” offer to the staff.
General Secretary, Sharon Graham said: “This is a highly lucrative company, which has made a fair pay offer to one group of its workers but isn’t prepared to make a similar offer to its ground handlers.”
According to Unite, the ground handlers have received a “real-terms pay cut”.
“Unite is entirely dedicated to defending its members’ jobs, pay and conditions,” they added.
Guy Hobbs, Editor of Which? Travel advised passengers of what to do in case their plans for Christmas travel are affected.
He said: “The possibility of strikes at Heathrow grounding flights later this month will be of huge concern to travellers, with thousands now anxious as to whether their Christmas plans could be left in ruins.
“Airlines affected should work quickly to inform passengers of any potential changes to their booking as a result of strike action, and ensure travellers are aware of their rights to rebooking or refunds if their flight is cancelled.
“Anyone still looking to book a flight during this time may want to consider alternative airports.”
The action follows a similar dispute in November, and Heathrow Airport has tried to reassure passengers, stating neither British Airways or Virgin would be affected.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We are aware of industrial action proposed by Menzies colleagues from 16 – 18 December.
“We encourage airport partners who would be affected to continue with their contingency planning and we will support them to minimise the impact on passengers, should the strike go ahead.”
The 72-hour walkouts may not be the last of the strikes called by the baggage handlers, but Menzies has said that they will be prepared to deal with any future action.
Miguel Gomez Sjunnesson, from Menzies Aviation said: “We are well prepared for further industrial action and are working closely with key partners to put in place robust contingency plans.
“The previous strike, which involved about 250 of our 1500 ground handling workforce at Heathrow, had minimal impact on our operations with no flight cancellations attributable to Menzies and 97% of flights departing on time.
“We remain committed to seeking a resolution on the pay talks in our ground handling operations so our employees can receive their increase now, and hope to be able to reach an agreement which is workable for both the business and our employees during our meeting with unions on Tuesday.”
Heathrow will also be affected by border force walkouts across the festive period, threatening those with Christmas travel plans.
While Brits using the Eurostar to get away in December and January will also face travel disruption after security staff announced strike action on December 16, 18, 22 and 23.