British Airways is to ban its own employees from using their generous staff travel perks to jet off on holiday from Heathrow because of passenger capacity caps being imposed by the airport operator.
Heathrow is attempting to face down a potentially crippling walkout by thousands of security officers who have demanded an inflation-matching pay rise. The airport says has contingency plans in place to keep flights going, but no one really knows just how much chaos the strike action could cause.
As a result, Heathrow bosses have demanded British Airways take all new tickets off sale for departures during the first three days of the strike, which is set to begin on Friday.
During that initial period, the airport will be able to assess the impact of the mass walkout and may extend its capacity caps for the duration of the 10-day strike.
Heathrow imposed similar capacity caps last summer when the airport struggled to ramp up its operations to deal with the sudden return in travel demand. At the time, however, British Airways declined to extend the restrictions on its own staff, who were allowed to take advantage of heavily discounted concessionary travel benefits.
British Airways has cancelled more than 300 flights during the strike period in an attempt to relieve pressure on its hub at Hearthrow’s Terminal 5, where the majority of striking security guards are employed.
Other terminals won’t be affected by the walkout, although knock-on effects of the Terminal 5 walkout could ripple across the entire airport. As a result, Heathrow has also called on other airlines to limit ticket sales for the duration of the industrial action.
“Following Heathrow’s requirement for us to reduce the number of passengers travelling during the period of its employees’ proposed strike action, we’ve regrettably had to make a small number of adjustments to our schedule,” the airline said in a statement earlier this week.
“Our teams are continuing to work closely with Heathrow to ensure that our customers’ journeys run smoothly,” the statement continued.
The Unite union, which represents security guards at Heathrow, says its members are struggling to get by on “poverty pay”. The union’s general secretary Sharon Graham denounced a 10 per cent pay offer from the airport.
Last-ditch talks to avert the walkout late last week proved futile.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.