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More Misery to Come For Heathrow Passengers as Refuellers Announce Strike Action That Could Ground Flights

More Misery to Come For Heathrow Passengers as Refuellers Announce Strike Action That Could Ground Flights

Strike action by aircraft refuelling workers at Heathrow airport could ground hundreds of flights later this week with major airlines including Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Delta and Singapore Airlines at risk of being grounded due to the industrial action.

Refuellers employed by Aviation Fuel Services (AFS) have rejected a 10 per cent pay offer and instead voted overwhelmingly in support of strike action. The three-day walkout begins at 5 am on July 21 and ends at 4:59 am on Sunday, July 24.

AFS does not provide refuelling services to British Airways flights and BA services will continue as normal. In terms of non-BA flights, AFS provides refuelling services to around half of the remaining airlines operating out of Heathrow.

Other affected airlines include United Airlines, American Airlines and Air France.

Passengers attempting to travel through Heathrow have suffered a torrid few weeks after the airport reported long delays at security checkpoints and thousands of bags went missing due to intermittent luggage system issues.

The problems have become so bad that Heathrow demanded airlines artificially cap passenger numbers. The airport believes it can only handle up to 100,000 passengers per day due to staff shortages but a request to offload passengers who had already booked flights drew an angry rebuke from Emirates.

The Dubai-based carrier initially refused to reduce passenger numbers, although a compromise agreement will see the airline stop selling any new tickets for flights from Heathrow for a few weeks.

Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union which represents the AFS refuellers claims the company is owned by “incredibly wealthy energy companies who are entirely able to provide our members with a decent pay increase”.

“This is yet another example of energy companies boosting profits at the expense of workers,” Graham said as she promised the union’s “unstinting” support to striking workers.

The Unite union represents thousands of workers at Heathrow and has recently threatened several strikes to win aviation workers post-pandemic pay rises. Walkouts have already been averted at several companies including British Airways.

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