Latest strike information as of August 24, 2019 below.
The United Kingdom is Americans’ favorite European destination — and second place is not even close. Unfortunately for travelers, labor actions by unions on both sides of the Atlantic seem poised to turn this summer season into a hellish quagmire for travelers flying across the pond to London this summer. London airport strikes seem inevitable.
Even as Brexit looms, is the UK turning into strike-prone France? Here’s an overview of some of the many strikes planned. While some may be avoided as issues are resolved, I wouldn’t count on stress-free travel this summer to London.
Postponed: London Airport Strikes: Heathrow Airport (LHR)
UPDATE (8/4/2019): While strikes were originally confirmed on both Monday and Tuesday (8/5 & 8/6) at Heathrow Airport according to the BBC, the strike for Monday have been called off. A strike is still expected for Tuesday.
The airport has cancelled 177 flights affecting 91 airlines, including a number operated by British Airways. If you’re flying through Heathrow Airport, check with your carrier for your flight status.
UPDATE 2 (8/5/2019): The Heathrow staff strike scheduled for today has been suspended. Some airlines, including British Airways, are reinstating cancelled flights. For the latest information on your flight, check your carrier’s website. The strike tomorrow (8/6) is still scheduled to go on on as scheduled, so if you have travel planned, be sure to keep a close eye on your booking.
UPDATE 3 (8/5/2019): The strike scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, August 6th) has been postponed. Strikes scheduled for Friday, August 23rd and Saturday, August 24th are still scheduled to go ahead.
UPDATE 4 (8/14/2019): After Heathrow upped their offer to include a 7.8% raise over the next two years, the strikes scheduled for Friday, August 23rd and Saturday, August 24th have been postponed to allow staff time to consider the offer.
The United Kingdom’s largest union, Unite, has announced that over 4,000 workers (including security guards, engineers, passenger service operatives, and passenger service drivers) will walk off the job on six key travel days.
If you’re flying through Europe’s busiest airport this summer, Unite is threatening to “shut down the airport” on the following days:
- Friday, July 26th
- Saturday, July 27th
- Monday, August 5th
- Tuesday, August 6th
- Friday, August 23rd
- Saturday, August 24th
The airport has stated that they have contingency plans to ensure the airport remains open and operating safely, but warned the action could affect passenger journeys and urged customers to contact their airline.
Needless to say, if Unite succeeds, the action will be felt by hundreds of thousands of passengers as it reverberates throughout Europe and US flight networks. The airport handles an average of 1,303 aircraft movements daily and is the primary hub for both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
Cancelled: Gatwick Airport (LGW) Security Strike
UPDATE (8/7/2019): Thanks to a last-minute agreement, the planned security workers strike at Gatwick was averted allowing customers to continue their journey without inconvenience.
The union Unite also said London Gatwick “faces a summer of disruption” as two separate groups of employees, including security workers, have started voting on whether to strike. If approved, they would strike in mid-August which would “inevitably create disruption at the airport” during the peak summer season.
London Gatwick Airport is the second busiest airport in the UK after Heathrow Airport and ranks among the 10 busiest airports in Europe. Major carriers at the airport include British Airways, EasyJet, Norwegian, TUI, and Virgin Atlantic.
Cancelled: Stansted Airport (STN) Check-In Strike
UPDATE (8/2/2019): Luckily for passengers flying EasyJet from Stansted, a last-minute deal has averted the planned strike by check-in workers at Stansted airport. If you have a EasyJet flight through Stansted in the next days, things should be operating normally. Don’t rest too easy, though: Stansted is still the worst UK airport for flight delays.
It’s not just the UK’s two busiest airports being targeted.
Unite is also threatening a crippling strike over 17 days at Stansted Airport where it represents check-in agents for EasyJet. The strike will cause severe delays for thousands of EasyJet passengers according to Unite. At least they’ll have the chance to read children’s books on-board thanks to the carrier’s new “Flybraries” promotion?
TBD: British Airways Crew Strike In The Cards…
The union for Gatwick-based crew at UK’s flag carrier British Airways recently completed balloting on their willingness to strike as talks have broken down between the carrier and the Unite-affiliated union. 94% voted yes potentially meaning yet another strike for flyers to deal with in the UK this summer.
‘Despite the short ballot period of just a weekend, .@MFUnite once again showed our commitment to stand up for what we believe in and turned out in force …. we have remained committed to finding an acceptable pay deal & are available to meet #BritishAirways for resolution.’ pic.twitter.com/Nw9CMOybTC
— Mixed Fleet Unite (@MFUnite) July 15, 2019
Importantly, this set of strikes would only affect British Airways flights operated by the mixed fleet out of Heathrow Airport.
Confirmed: British Airways Pilots Vote To Strike
UPDATE (8/4/2019): After a legal challenge by British Airways was unsuccessful, a pilots strike by British Airways pilots is imminent although dates are still to be determined. British Airways is yet to adjust its schedule since the union still hasn’t announced dates for the strike. Under British law, the union must give at least 14 days notice before a strike.
Hopefully, the union will return to the table to negotiate without disrupting so many customers’ plans. If the union chooses not to, British Airways is asking passengers with bookings to make sure their contact details are updated under “manage my booking” so they can get in touch with you should the union announce strike dates.
UPDATE (8/23/2019): The pilots’ union for British Airways has announced three days of strikes: September 9, 10 and 27. Passengers with travel on British Airways in September should refer to ba.com/strike for information. Importantly, flights operated by BA City Flier from London City Airport (LCY), Comair, and Sunair flights will not be affected by the union’s actions.
Then, it’s another story with the expected strike from British Airways pilots in early-August. The British Airline Pilots Association announced that talks had broken down after management offered the pilots an 11.5% pay increase over three years.
Balloting on a strike next month will end on July 22nd, but if the results are as widely expected, you can expect severe disruption on British Airways. The union declared “little prospect of talks resuming” without a capitulation from the carrier.
Paired with the crippling “slowdown” by mechanics at American Airlines, British Airways’ transatlantic partner, this seems to be a bad summer for transatlantic Oneworld travel.
Confirmed: UK-based Ryanair Pilots to Strike
UPDATE (8/7/2019): The union has announced strikes on August 22-23 and September 2-4 following what they claim was an 80% vote in favor of strikes with 72% turnout. Ryanair urged the union to return to the table while disputing the numbers claiming less than 30% of its UK pilots had supported the strike.
Ryanair pilots are being balloted for a potential strike by the British Airline Pilots Association. The ballot will close on August 7th giving the union plenty of time to disrupt flyers plans this summer.
Those flying through London should be prepared for delays and other disruption during this summer of chaos.
As always, if you’re delayed on a European carrier or departing the European Union, be sure to file an EU 261 claim with your carrier for compensation. Of course, you can file a claim yourself but it’s often easier to just use one of many companies who’ll file it for you in exchange for a cut of your compensation. One of the most reputable and easiest companies to file a claim through is AirHelp.
You should also consider travel insurance and purchase your flights and hotels using a credit card offering purchase protection like the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, or Ink Business Preferred Card.
Let us know if you’re affected by the disruption this summer in the comments.
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