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HEATHROW STRIKE UPDATE: British Airways and Virgin Atlantic emergency measures

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EDIT 7pm Sunday: The strike has been suspended for Monday 5th August. Strikes for Tuesday 6th August are still scheduled. Read our latest update.

EDIT:  The list of British Airways cancellations and terminal switches for Monday 5th August is in this HfP article.  The article below has not been re-written to reflect the fact that cancellations have now been published.

British Airways has published the list of emergency measures it is taking in light of the strike due at Heathrow Airport on Monday 5th and Tuesday 6th August.

ALL airlines operating out of Heathrow will be impacted by this strike which is by staff directly employed by the airport. I have focused on BA in this article but you will also be hit if you are flying with someone else.

Heathrow has told airlines to cancel 172 flights, of which half will be BA services.  The list is not public. BA will not trigger these until the last minute in case the strike is called off.

First, a quick Virgin update ….

Virgin Atlantic has announced that some Heathrow flights will depart and arrive via Gatwick instead.

This is now confirmed – on Friday night it was just a possibility. Check the Virgin website here for details.

Back to the British Airways changes ….

The bottom line is – if you can change your BA short-haul flight you probably should, although cancellations are not being allowed.  At present, the A350 media flight to Madrid is still going ahead.

No long-haul changes are being allowed.

You won’t be taking much hand baggage, you may not be fed, security will take a long time and flights will be cancelled whenever the airport gets too busy.

Rebooking is available on any BA Heathrow, Gatwick or City flight between now and 12th August.

The full guidelines can be found on here.  However, the catering changes listed below have not been publicised.

I have summarised them here but you should read the full version if you are impacted:

If you choose to travel and not rebook your flight:

No hand baggage will be allowed onto aircraft except for ‘small personal items’, eg a purse.  Checked baggage weight allowances will not be increased to compensate.  This rule also applies to connecting passengers who start their trips outside Heathrow.

You can check in your baggage from 6pm the day before your flight

Only minimal catering will be offered on the shorter British Airways short-haul routes, either free (in Club Europe) or paid-for (in Euro Traveller)

The First Wing in Terminal 5 will be closed, as will all Fast Track security lane

Security queues will be substantially longer than usual

The catering information has been released to the travel trade but not to the public:

There will be minimal catering on the following routes (apologies for the use of airport codes):  ABZ, AMS, BHD, BLL, BRU, BSL, CDG, DUB, DUS, EDI, FRA, GLA, GVA, HAJ, HAM, INV, LBA, LUX, LYS, MAN, MPL, NCL, NTE, STR, TLS, TXL, ZRH

If you are in Club Europe you will receive a voucher to spend in the terminal and a muffin or flapjack on the aircraft

If you are in Euro Traveller you will be offered tea, coffee, water and a biscuit

For clarity, British Airways is not allowing you to cancel your flight.  

However, half of the 172 flights identified for cancellation are likely to be BA services.  BA knows which flights are on the list but will not inform passengers until the last minute in case the strike is called off on Sunday.

Further strikes are planned for 23rd / 24th August.

Comments (164)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • BJ says:

    OT: Two United pilots fail breath test at Glasgow Airport. ISTR this has happened to United at GLA a few years ago, and I think also with a Canadian airline too, seems a bit unreal. The previous pilots were jailed and fired I believe; you’d think it wouldn’t happen again!

    • Shoestring says:

      legal limit is 20mg per 100ml of blood – ie about half a pint of strong beer

      • BJ says:

        It seemed the last time was 2017, one was 7x limit and other 3x limit and they got 10 months if the details I just seen on the web are reliable. By contrast the Canadian pair in 2018 got lucky after their case collapsed because of problems handling their blood samples..

  • Max says:

    Well, what a saga! I’m due to fly from Heathrow to Prague on the 6th so have been reading reports as the come out (which is a real eye opener to how the press operate, but hey, that’s another subject).

    Anyways, I’ve just got off the phone to BA, who told me:

    – If I have not been contacted yet about my flight being cancelled, it will not be cancelled. All passengers whose flights have been cancelled have been told.

    – I cannot change flight to another one at a London Airport between 01/08 – 12/08, or to another from Heathrow between those dates but excluding the 5th and 6th. I can only do this if they have sent me (or if my flight has) a “code”, which my flight doesn’t have because it is due to run on time and not up for cancellation.

    – My flight no longer shows on the BA website. I asked why and he said because it is fully booked.

    Some of what I’ve been told is contradictory, even against what it says on the BA site itself!

    Not good….

  • Tony says:

    Just called British Airways and they confirmed that you can take a backpack aboard during the strike.

    • Rob says:

      Call centre has no idea what is going on, although may have guessed correctly.

  • Max says:

    Thanks Shoestring. I’ll try calling again this morning and see what they come up with this time.

    What none of the press seems to make clear is… If the strike is called off today, do things resume to business as usual? All press articles read as saying that the 172 (177 according to some) flights have been cancelled. Full stop. Done and dusted. But would they still be cancelled if the strikes are called off. I presume not, but are my presumptions correct?

    • Rob says:

      BA has been told they are cancelled but passengers have not been told. No problem reinstating then!

  • Max says:

    Hmmm… I’m thinking I might just jump ship (so to speak!!!) and change my flight to London City Airport. There’s one leaving there a few hours later so I’ve got plenty of time to get from Heathrow to LCY. It’s not ideal, it will add £25 to the journey and extra airport waiting time, but at least I’ll know I should be getting to my destination. And even if the strikes go ahead and my flight isn’t cancelled, at least at LCY I won’t be stuck in the middle of the chaos which might be going on at Heathrow.

    Of course, I’ll be a bit gutted if the strike is called off and I’ve added the extra expenditure and hassle for nothing… But that’s what gambling is all about I suppose…

    Curious to hear whether folk think I’m being sensible or rash???

    • marcw says:

      Very sensible.

    • Lady London says:

      Well done. Would you agree, being a reader of HfP makes you become able to work out these things logically and choose the best alternative for yourself. HfP helps us by giving some extra knowledge of how airlines work and so we have more info we can decide with.

      Good decision.

      • BJ says:

        Nope, I’m afraid you’re very wrong Lady London. Despite reading HfP from the beginning my avios balance is 1x(and possibly 2, 3 or 4x) 90K avios short of what it should be this year 🙁

        NB, no comments, however well-meaning, are required from Shoestring.

        • Russ says:

          I’d be interested to see the first HFP article just to see how much things have changed.

        • Lady London says:

          Hum. @BJ you did ok on the recent Tesco though, which I missed out on due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

          • BJ says:

            Yes, quite happy with that 🙂 Rob made a very persuasive case on the IB 90k being a solid opportunity, and others were equally persuasive in attempting to allay my moral concerns about the promotion, but still I didn’t budge . Had I known about the changes to avios collection opportunities this year back then, I would probably have been in for at least 180K. It shows though, that reading HfP alone is not enough, it is what we do with what we learn that counts at the end of the day. And, as you say, timing is also important. Until 2018 I was never at home to take advantage of shop small, and I too missed numerous Tesco opportunities because I was overseas. Had to get my reply in to your earlier comment quickly, a year may have passed but Shoestring rarely misses an opportunity to flag up my IB 90k failings 🙂

          • Shoestring says:

            who? me, guv? 🙂

            I was *that* close to not going for the ‘scam’ IB90K Avios @0.2p/ point, BJ, I swear it

            Well, IB180K @0.2p/ point, I suppose 🙂

            not sure you’d have easily got away with 360K though there are a few stories

          • Shoestring says:

            got a very pleasant surprise with my/ our Tesco ‘vouchers are in’ emails

            nearly 5000 Clubcard points each

            until I realised that 4750 of that is change from £50 🙂

            should have gone for those mobile deals I guess

          • BJ says:

            @Harry, LL and others too, posted a tip at end if cancelattiobs thread.

          • BJ says:

            IB360k would have been no risk, Ma and Pa like to spoil me with avios but not cash 🙂 I think there is a good chance we might see Tesco Mobile offer or something similar again it it attracted sufficient genuine new customers.

        • Lady London says:

          BJ If it’s any consolation i distinctly remember Shoestring wasnt going to participante at all and only relented very late on the IB one.

  • xmenlongshot says:

    What about buggies / baby food?

  • Max says:

    Updates (and not very good ones!!!) after calling BA. Apparently you have to pay to change flights. More details below:

    Call 1 – On hold for nine minutes, phone went dead.
    Call 2 – On hold for seven minutes, phone went dead.
    Call 3 – Got through to someone after a lengthy wait. She gave different info to the previous guy:
    a) They have not announced which flights will be cancelled.
    b) Mine still could be cancelled
    c) Free changes are not allowed until the flight is cancelled. She was adamant about that, even after I read to her what their website says, and what is being said in the press. That being said, nowhere does it say explicitly that the change would be free, so perhaps my assumption there is wrong. What do you guys think?
    I asked her again to confirm there is no way to change for free… She said she would put me on hold. 10 minutes of hold and the phone went dead.

    • Max says:

      Call 4 – Got through in less than a minute. The guy said I CAN change for free, but when I said I wanted to change to same date at LCY he said no – that it had to be a different date. I quoted their own FAQ, he put me on hold, and then returned saying it was his mistake and I can change. For free. It’s all done now.

      Thanks to everyone for the help 🙂

      And the moral of the story? Perseverance is key. (Or – stick to holidays in the UK!)

      • Shoestring says:

        good result

        thought it was HUACA early this morning

        • Max says:

          Yes, I’m pleased with the result. Will have been all in vain if the strikes are called off but hey, that’s the gamble. And let’s hope they are called off for everyone else’s sake.


      • Sloth says:

        Are you flying from London or to? I’m due to fly back to Heathrow tomorrow and am trying to switch to come into City to try avoid any chaos etc but they won’t without charge

        • Max says:

          I’m flying FROM London. I’ve no idea how changing a flight coming into London would work or if it is permissible. Sorry.

    • Travel Strong says:

      The hopelessness of the call centre is my biggest issue with BA. You wait an eternity to be cut off, misunderstood, and given bad information. Virgin call centre – no real wait time, fantastic service, and in depth knowledge.

      • Lady London says:

        The call centre (which is generally Newcastle) is fine compared to the so-called “Customer Service” or “Complaints” department which lands you with an offshore team – I’m not sure if they’re just being impossible on purpose or by instruction – or if they truly are incompetent.

  • Lyn says:

    To make things even more confusing, BA’s automatic e-mails apparently haven’t caught up with the strike guidelines on their web-site.

    I received an e-mail from BA a little while ago “reminding” me that I can carry-on a handbag / laptop bag plus 1 additional cabin bag on my short-haul flight from Heathrow tomorrow!

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

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