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Heathrow news: refuelling strike starts today, capacity cuts to last ‘to November’

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News in brief:

[SUSPENDED] The 3-day Heathrow refuelling strike starts today

EDIT: The strike has been postponed following a last minute pay offer yesterday evening.

Substantial disruption is expected at Heathrow from today due to a strike by refuelling staff. The strike will continue until the early hours of Sunday morning.

A revised pay offer made by Aviation Fuel Services this week has been rejected by staff.

British Airways is NOT impacted by this strike. It will impact KLM, Emirates, United Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, amongst others.

It isn’t clear how widespread the disruption will be. KLM, for example, should be fine – it can load additional fuel in Amsterdam to avoid refuelling at Heathrow. It isn’t environmentally friendly, due to the extra weight being carried, but it solves the problem.

Long haul airlines such as Virgin Atlantic do not have this luxury. Aviation Fuel Services is not the only refueller at the airport but it has a 50% market share of the non-BA business and there is believed to be limited extra capacity available.

The Unite union claims that staff at Aviation Fuel Services have not received a pay rise in three years, leading to a 15% fall in income in real terms. A 10% settlement was offered this week but rejected. Shareholders in Aviation Fuel Services include major energy providers such as BP.

Heathrow Terminal 3

Heathrow ‘to ask airlines to cut flights until November’

The Times reported yesterday that Heathrow has written to airlines asking them to make additional service cuts into the Autumn.

The present cap of 100,000 passengers per day is due to expire on 11th September. The airport is now keen to extend this to 29th October, the last day of the Summer flying season.

It is possible that Heathrow has decided that it isn’t worth recruiting staff at this point in the cycle. October half term is the last busy week of the year, apart from the Christmas spike. If passenger numbers can be capped over the half term period then the airport could arguably avoid having to return to historic staffing levels until Easter 2023.

Comments (21)

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

  • BajiNahid says:

    Hi guys, i think the AFS strike is now suspended due to receiving an offer. Seen it in the press on Sky News

    • ChrisC says:

      Confirmed via BBC

      Union suspends Heathrow refuelling staff strike

      “A spokesperson for AFS said: “AFS is pleased to confirm that Unite have agreed to postpone industrial action whilst a ballot of a revised offer is made.”

      What surprised me is that AFS only has 50 staff.

      • Cat says:

        Thank goodness – I just woke up, saw this, and started having palpitations – I’m flying to Costa Rica on Saturday with AA!

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    Yes it’s was suspended last night, this must be an auto published article, always a danger there when a situation changes last minute!

  • Neil says:

    Hi guys, Gatwick South Clubrooms does still show closed as you say but does allow you to book and says it closes at midday.
    This is my favourite LGW lounge 🙂

  • Nick M says:

    What’s the best way to ensure I get notified as quickly as possible about any flight cancellations? – there’s something in the back of my mind saying there is a better way than just relying on BA letting me know but I can’t remember what it is

  • Greenpen says:

    Holding down staff numbers until 2023!!

    It is taking on all the attributes of the very bottom of the gig economy.

  • Harry Holden says:

    United CEO: “We told Heathrow Airport how many passengers we were going to have. Heathrow: “You guys are smoking something, you’re not going to have that many. We are not going to staff for it.”
    United CEO:”I told you”
    Heathrow: “Stop all recruitment for Winter 22. We can eek out a few more pence in the dividend.”
    HarryHolden68: “I have a plan. Let’s hire now and get them really well trained for Summer 22 so we can run a great operation at 2019 levels of capacity AND GIVE THE AIRLINES THE CONFIDENCE THAT THE CAN PLAN LIKEWISE!”

    HTF can these people be allowed to manage one of the worlds most important hub airports with this level of incompetence?

    • SJ says:

      Let’s be honest, i think it is more down to the fact that Heathrow and all airports for that matter, do not want to commit to any form of recruitment, as at the back of their minds, they are probably fearful that governments will once again impose travel restrictions once we’re mid Autumn / start of Winter to ‘curb’ any Covid numbers. Why hire now, when there’s a very good chance they’ll be closed down / have significantly reduced operations again and have to lay them off within months?
      Not saying that I agree with that as an approach, nor any form of future restrictions but the world has shown that rational decisions are not being taken currently, so this approach makes sense to me.

      • Lady London says:

        100% this is what’s going on.

        So the paying public may only have a relatively short time of the year they can travel, many only in summer, and airlines can make their year’s money in summer to offset the break-even or losses on many routes at other times.

        But airports and airlines have decided a better and safer strategy for them is to restrict supply and use the inelasticity of current demand to force prices as high as they can…. (and airlines doing all sorts of sneaky things to get the seats they already sold cheaply, made available by passengers to now be re-old at the new high pricing….). This lets the industry keep overheads low in autumn and through winter low season that is loved by the virus…. So some opportunity lost in summer.
        But containing the overhead so a more calculated decision can be made about expanding or not expanding overhead, particularly human overhead, for next spring.

        Wouldn’t you do the same?

        I’m fine with it. It’s commercial decisions made by airlines and airports to ensure their own survival and optimise profit.

        But as passengers are the victims of this self-protection by airlines and airports, which are private enterprises and not public services anymore, then at the passenger’s interaction point with this profit chain, ie their airline, paasengers should receive full compensation for disruption and all the assistance mandated by law. Then I’m actually cool with what’s going on here.

        • Brian78 says:

          “100% this is what’s going on.”

          Nope definitely not “100%”. Just someone’s unsubstantiated opinion.

    • Track says:

      Serves the purpose of holding the public and CAA hostage.

      Don’t want to give us 34 GBP airport fee? Meet an artificial 3-hour security queue and passenger cap numbers..

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Heathrow should be publicly embarrassed into hiring more staff by all operating airlines. Waiting until summer season 2023 is a disgrace.

    • Dubious says:

      To be fair, the airlines did complain and warn about the airport slot usage thresholds and earlier waivers not being extended for the summer 2022 season.

      As per this article from January 2022, the UK government kept the slot usage requirement high, at 70% (slightly down from the usual 80% but much higher than the 50% waivers during the tail of the pandemic).

      Now things have come to a head, a waiver (or ‘amnesty’) has been granted at as per this article from 21 June 2022:

      Note the date – this was published at or around the same time that Heathrow Airport acknowledged it needed to cut capacity (announced on 20 June 2022).

      I am unclear if the lessons (slot usage waivers) have been granted for the winter 2022 season.

  • Grimz says:

    My reward flight to Bangkok has been cancelled for January. Can i ask to be re-routed on another airline?

    • Rob says:

      You can, but they will refuse (illegally).

      Give them a couple of weeks and they will agree. They want as many as possible to take a cash refund and ignore their legal requirement to a reroute.

  • John says:

    It’s hardly mentioned in the media, including HfPs, that Heathrow imposed fire and rehire on most of their frontline staff, resulting in pay cuts of 20% on average, is it any wonder morale and productivity is rock bottom.

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