Strike threat to holidays

13 August 2010

A proposed BAA strike could bring six airports to a close over Bank Holiday weekend, in what would mark the end of a holiday season marred by strike action and volcanic ash.

A dispute over pay has led union Unite, which is also involved in the British Airways pay row, to announce staff will walkout in protest unless an agreement can be found beforehand.

The dates of the strike are due to be confirmed on Monday, although conciliation service Acas hopes to host talks between Unite and BAA over the weekend to avert crisis.

Holidaymakers planning to get away for some end-of-summer sun over the Bank Holiday weekend fear the strike may fall at that time in a bid to cause maximum interference.

If the strike goes ahead, Heathrow, Southampton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Stansted and Aberdeen will grind to a halt because firefighters, security staff and engineers will be absent.

Under Civial Aviation Authority regulations, an airport cannot operate without such essential staff.

BAA has said it 'regrets the uncertainty' experienced by its passengers and that it believes its offer of a conditional 1.5% pay increase is reasonable, given what has been a tough year in the aviation industry.

Unite has named the pay offer 'derisory' especially following a pay freeze swallowed by staff in 2009.

The union balloted 6,185 members of staff at BAA's six airports. Of the 3,055 who voted, 74% were in favour of strike action.

Brendan Gold, Unite national officer for civil aviation, says: " For the past four months BAA has refused to even meet with us. BAA is doing passengers a great disservice by allowing this dispute to get to this stage. We are therefore calling on BAA to return to the negotiating table with a fair offer."

What next?

Customers should take different action depending on their circumstances. If you have yet to book a holiday you can fly from airports which would be unaffected by BAA strike action - these include Manchester, Birmingham and Gatwick.

If you have booked a package holiday then the travel agent or operator has a responsibility to provide all elements of the package. They will have to come up with an alternative way for you to get to your destination, offer you alternative dates, or refund your money for the whole holiday.

For those who have organised their flight and accommodation separately, the outlook isn't great. While the airlines may decide to rearrange, refund or re-route your flight, as they have done during previous airport closures, they are under no obligation to do so. If strike dates are announced you should contact your airline as soon as possible.

Other parts of DIY holidays (accommodation, car hire and excursions) may be covered by travel insurance. But anyone claiming would have to have bought their policy and made the booking before the strike announcement. 

Check the smallprint of your insurance documents and contact your insurer to see if they are offering any leeway.

Finally, if you booked your holiday with a credit card and it cost over £100, you might be able to claim through section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act.

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