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17 Jul 2019

London airport strikes: are you prepared for summer travel disruption?

What to expect and your rights to compensation if you're affected by upcoming strikes at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick

Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted airports could face industrial action this summer, throwing millions of holidaymakers' plans into disarray during peak travel weeks.

Heathrow could be 'shut down' by strike action this summer, warns trade union Unite, with more than 4,000 workers set to walk out.

Unite is predicting travel chaos when workers, including security guards, engineers, passenger-service operatives and passenger service drivers across all of Heathrow airport's five terminals go on a series of strikes in a dispute over pay.

The summer 2019 walk-outs are scheduled to take place on Friday 26 July, Saturday 27 July, Monday 5 August, Tuesday 6 August, Friday 23 August, and Saturday 24 August.

Revealed: the UK's best and worst airports

Further air travel upset

As if that weren't enough, easyJet check-in staff at London Stansted airport are striking for 17 days this summer in a dispute over pay and conditions, with walkouts taking place throughout the school summer holidays.

Starting with a four-day strike from 3.30am on Thursday 25 July through to the early hours of Monday 29 July, industrial action will continue with a series of strikes each weekend throughout August, specifically from 2-5 August, 9-12 August, 16-19 August, and 23-27 August.

Adding to holidaymakers' summer travel woes, Britain's second-largest airport, Gatwick, is also facing possible strike action too. Baggage scanners and facility workers are considering a walkout in August over pay.

Meanwhile, British Airways flights are also facing possible disruption from 5 August onwards after two days of talks between BA and The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) broke down. BA says it has offered its pilots 11.5% over three years, but BALPA's general secretary, Brian Strutton, says: 'BA has been enormously profitable, and the employees should have a fair share of that success which, after all, they produce for the company.'

Find out how BA and easyJet placed on our list of best and worst airlines

How will my travel be affected?

Heathrow says it will be implementing contingency plans that will ensure the airport remains open and operating safely throughout any coordinated strike action and will be working alongside airlines to minimise any disruption for passengers.

EasyJet accounts for less than 10% of the flights out of Stansted airport, and the low-cost airline says it has contingency plans in place and claims there will be no impact on passengers.

ICTS, the company that holds the security services contract at Gatwick airport, says the travelling public should not expect disruption as a result of the proposed industrial action, stating that they have robust contingency plans in place. They're also continuing to work with staff to reach an agreement and prevent any industrial action.

British Airways have stated that, currently, normal terms and conditions will apply for anyone who wants to change or cancel their flight, but they may change that stance should the proposed pilot strikes go ahead.

Your rights if your flight is disrupted

If your flight is disrupted by airport staff striking, you will not be able to claim compensation for any delays. Unlike delays for other reasons, airlines are usually not obligated to offer compensation following a strike because they're often considered 'extraordinary circumstances' beyond the control of the airline.

However, the CAA has confirmed that when a flight cancellation is caused by strike action by the airline's employees, the airline is required to pay compensation if passengers were not warned of the cancellation at least two weeks prior to scheduled time of departure.

Additionally, if there are knock-on delays or cancellations following strikes you could be entitled to compensation. For example, if a strike happens on a Monday, and this is categorised as an extraordinary circumstance, then compensation would not be payable. But if there are still delays or cancellations on the Tuesday and the strike is over compensation would be payable, even if the delays and cancellations are because of the strike the day before

Find more information on what to do - and what your rights are - should your travel plans be disrupted by strikes