• Friday, July 12, 2024

Business

Gatwick Airport faces travel disruptions as workers announce strike

Gatwick is a key hub for leisure flights to southern European beach destinations

FILE PHOTO: Passengers wait in the queue for check-in in the South Terminal building at Gatwick Airport, in Gatwick, Britain. REUTERS/Toby Melville

By: Pramod Thomas

WORKERS at Britain’s Gatwick will strike for eight days at the end of July and in early August, potentially causing cancellations and travel misery for thousands of passengers at the busiest time of year for summer holidays.

European travellers are already on high alert over worries about air traffic control problems arising from both the reduced air space available due to the Ukraine war, plus staffing issues and industrial action at some locations.

The Unite trade union said around 950 Gatwick workers, including ground staff, baggage handlers and check-in agents, would walk out in a pay dispute for four days from July 28-Aug. 1 and then another four days from Aug. 4-8.

“Given the scale of the industrial action, disruption, delays and cancellations are inevitable across the airport,” Unite said in its statement.

Gatwick, about 30 miles (48 kilometres) south of London, said it would support airlines with their contingency plans to ensure as many flights as possible operate as scheduled.

The contracts concerned in the dispute were between airlines and third party contractors including Menzies Aviation and DHL Services, the airport said.

A key hub for leisure flights to southern European beach destinations, Gatwick’s biggest airlines include easyJet, TUI and British Airways.

EasyJet said further talks between its ground handler DHL and Unite were taking place next week.

“We urge them to reach an agreement as soon as possible,” the airline said.

British Airways said its ground handling agent GGS was working with the union to resolve the issue “as a matter of urgency”, while Menzies Aviation said it had invited Unite back to the table to try to reach a deal.

Concerns over air traffic control delays already prompted easyJet to axe 2 per cent of its summer flight schedule, mostly from Gatwick, on Monday (17).

Any disruption this summer will come on the back of a chaotic peak season in Europe last year when thousands of flights were cancelled due to a shortage of staff.

Airlines faced a huge compensation bill as a result, and have spent millions this year ensuring there is slack in the system to try to mitigate the risk of problems.

On the strike-affected days, 4,410 flights are due to depart from Gatwick, equating to over 840,000 potential passengers, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium.

Gatwick was singled out by the head of airlines trade group IATA earlier this week as having local resource issues in its air traffic control function, according to a report in the Financial Times.

Britain’s busiest hub, Heathrow Airport, agreed a pay deal with security workers in June, avoiding multiple days of walk-outs throughout the summer which had been planned by Unite.

(Reuters)

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