by Hugh Morris, The Telegraph, July 17, 2019
Three of the UK’s busiest airports could be hit by strike action as the busiest travel season of the year gets underway.
Unite has threatened “chaos” at London Heathrow, with more than 4,000 staff, including security guards and engineers, planning to walk out in a dispute over pay. The union said it could “shut down the airport”.
The strike days are planned for July 26-27, August 5-6, and August 23-24 (the bank holiday weekend).
Meanwhile at London Gatwick, the UK’s second busiest airport, baggage scanners and terminal staff are considering action in August over pay.
London Stansted, too, could be hit by strikes, with EasyJet staff due to down tools for 17 days this summer, over pay and conditions. The industrial action is planned to start on July 25 for four days, with further strikes on August 2-5, 9-12, 16-19 and 23-27.
It is not just airports fending off possible disruption. Earlier this month talks appeared to break down between the British Airline Pilots’ Association (Balpa) and British Airways, again over pay. A ballot regarding strike action is expected to close on July 22, with a walk out pencilled in for August.
What does it mean for your flight?
At the moment, it’s hard to say, with none of the action having begun. Airports and airlines will all likely have contingency plans in place to handle events, but disruption, such as cancellations and delays, is possible.
The timing, however, could not be worse. The next six weeks are the busiest of the year for airports, with millions of travellers jetting off on their summer holidays.
Heathrow has said it will implement contingency plans and will be working with airlines to minimise disruption. A spokesperson for Gatwick said it is keen to see an agreement reached, while ICTS, the company behind security at the airport, says the public should not be disrupted.
At Stansted, EasyJet has said it has contingency arrangements and there will be no impact to passengers if strikes go ahead. Stansted said concerned passengers should check with the airline.
BA has said that should industrial action take place, it could relax its terms and conditions to allow passengers to make changes to bookings.
Am I entitled to a refund if my flight is cancelled?
Yes. European Union regulations require airlines to offer you either a full refund of the unused parts of your tickets, or to re-route you to your destination, as soon as possible. It may also allow you to rebook your flights for a later date at no extra cost.
It is worth noting that should you still want to travel after your flight has been cancelled, airlines are obliged to help you to your destination as soon as you want, even if that means being booked onto another carrier.
The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says: “Although most airlines will book you onto another of their flights to the same destination, if an alternative airline is flying there significantly sooner then you may have the right to be booked onto that flight instead. You can discuss this with your airline.”
Will I get compensation?
Unlikely. Airlines are not liable to pay the additional cash compensation set out by EU regulations because they would not consider themselves directly responsible for the disruption.
If you receive less than seven days’ notice of a cancellation, you may be able to claim on the timings of the alternative flight.
The CAA says: "If your new flight arrives more than two hours after the scheduled time of your original flight, you can claim €250 – no matter what time it departs.
Otherwise, if your new flight arrives earlier than two hours after the scheduled time of your original flight, you can claim €125."
What if my flight is delayed?
First and foremost, you are entitled to care and assistance, in the form and food and drink and, in the case of overnight stays or being stranded abroad, accommodation. Spend reasonably and be sure to keep receipts.
You could then be entitled to additional compensation, depending on the length of your flight and how late you arrive at your destination.
For delays of three hours or more you are entitled to a cash payment of €250 (£225) for short flights and €400 (£361) for a flight distance of 1,500-3,500km. For flights of over 3,500km you will receive €300 (£271) for a delay of 3-4 hours; €600 (£540) for more than four hours.
My flight has been cancelled - can I cancel my accommodation?
If you have booked a hotel, a villa or other accommodation independently of your travel arrangements (i.e. not as part of a package holiday) your contract is directly with the hotel or villa and you are responsible for any cancellation. If you can’t get there, you will have to do your best to persuade them to give you a refund or rebook for a later date – but they are not obliged to do this and you may lose money.
Am I covered by my travel insurance?
Your policy may pay out a small amount for very long delays (normally over 12 hours), but not usually enough to pay for more than a meal or two. A few policies have cover for a "consequential loss", such as a hotel booking made independently. You will need to check the terms and conditions which apply to your policy directly with your insurer.