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As T5 security crisis looms, Virgin Atlantic allows rebooking (from T3) whilst BA (at T5) does not

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As we covered earlier this month, over 1,400 security guards employed by Heathrow have rejected a 10% pay increase and voted in favour of strike action.

The action will begin on Friday 31st March and end on Sunday 9th April.

Talks between the airport and the union have broken down and the strike will happen unless the airport makes a substantial pay offer between now and Thursday. You need to remember that staff took a substantial pay cut during the pandemic due to a ‘fire and rehire’ process by the airport.

Heathrow security

In theory this is not airport-wide. Only security guards at Heathrow Terminal 5 will go on strike, which means this will largely affect British Airways passengers.

In practice, it appears that staff are being moved from other terminals to avoid the complete closure of Terminal 5. This will lead to knock-on effects elsewhere. 

Virgin Atlantic – based in Terminal 3 and so not directly impacted – is already trying to stop passengers flying on Friday, Saturday and Sunday next week. A waiver has been issued which will allow free rebooking – see here. Rebooked travel must be completed by 30th June.

British Airways has quietly started making changes, but only modest ones.

A number of short haul flights have been cancelled during the strike period.

Ticket sales have also been stopped on some routes, but this will have minimal impact since I suspect there is little short notice business travel over Easter.

Try to fly to New York on 1st April and you get this:

Heathrow security strike

It appears that British Airways will go as close to the wire as possible before allowing passengers to change flights. It will be too late for passengers to pull Easter travel forward (you would need to fly by Thursday night to avoid problems and of course it is Monday today) unless the waiver is published very soon.

Do NOT call British Airways until a waiver policy is published. Unless you have a flexible ticket you are just wasting your time.

How much of the BA schedule can actually go ahead at Terminal 5 with only a few volunteer Heathrow managers operating the security scanners, plus however many agree to move from other terminals to replace striking colleagues, is up for debate ….

Comments (204)

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  • Stu287 says:

    Any news on resolution?

    • Rob says:

      No resolution.

      Awaiting the first reports of Heathrow building tents on the approach road to hold queuing passengers 🙂

      That said, either BA and/or Heathrow are being unbelievably stupid or they believe that parachuting in a few Head Office staff with no security experience will easily fill the gap. Let’s see.

      • Stu287 says:

        Thanks. Not looking good for my trip in 1st to miami for Easter. Leave on Tuesday 4th with a 5 year old and a 5 month old. Not looking forward to that 😕 really hope they keep 1st wing open

        • JDB says:

          If the strikes proceed, the optics of keeping the First wing open are not good.

      • Heathrow Staff says:

        ICTC and G4s are excepted to step in to support, and we all know how they performed during the Olympic in UK!

        • Rob says:

          Here’s a question. What counts as ‘airside’ in security, ie the line beyond which you would need full security clearance to work? Does the man who stands in front of the scanner putting out trays count as ‘landside’ and so could be replaced by anyone, as long as he didn’t pass some invisible line taking him airside?

  • supergraeme says:

    I wonder whether my CE booking for Amman counts as short haul or not? There are Royal Jordanian flights at very similar times from T3 that I certainly wouldn’t mind being moved onto!

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      If it’s CE then it’s short haul

      If it’s CW then long

  • Marco Polo says:

    I am due to fly LHR to MAN late Saturday evening.
    I think that the train night might be more convenient. At least there is more rhan one train

  • zapato1060 says:

    still no info. I would rather they just allowed me to move my AMS flight to LGW. People should check BA app for flight status as it could take a while (some instances hours) for emails to arrive.

  • A says:

    Have BA allowed those on cancelled flight to rebook on alternate flights on the same day? If so, how does that make any difference to the number of passengers passing through security?

    • Rob says:

      A question I was pondering myself 🙂

    • JDB says:

      It’s as much when the passengers pass through security as the total number. The cuts BA has made are limited but designed to limit/smooth flows at certain times. That’s why the caps last summer with only c. 4% cuts were so effective.

      • Rob says:

        I get a feeling that the PR over the strike is going to mess up those numbers though, with those who have heard about it arriving crazily early and those who haven’t arriving on schedule ….

        • JDB says:

          Indeed, unfortunately passengers will exacerbate the issue by arriving too early with too much hand luggage and unprepared at the security belt! There may yet be further cancellations of course.

          • A says:

            What some don’t appreciate is how much those security guards in other terminals that didn’t get a strike mandate and those moved to T5 for the day will slow things up by doing the job as they are trained to, basically a “go slow”

  • ACK says:

    Currently in PLS, due to fly back Sunday. Just checked, the LHR-(NAS)-PLS that is supposed to pick us up is not sold, there are no flights starting the 31st. But, I could purchase a ticket to our flight back home, which suggests there will be a plane to board. Alternatively, plan B will be AA via MIA, plan C is AA via CLT. If it comes to that, I hope I’ll be given enough time to get an ESTA.

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      I just checked the app and it’s still showing in FLIGHT STATUS as operating even if they have stopped selling (so it dosen’t show when you try and book)

      • JD says:

        They have pulled all of their inventory so searching for most flights out of LHR brings up nothing – but that does not mean they’re not operating the flight, they just don’t want to risk selling any more seats on it in case: a) they have to cancel it; b) they need to manage numbers in the terminal so that we aren’t all queueing all the way round the block (or in the tents Rob thinks they’re readying for the approach road 😉 )

        • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

          But @ACK is flying into LHR.

          And that’s the point I’m making – to check if their flight is operating people should check the flight status page not the sales page.

      • Heathrow Staff says:

        They will cancel within 24 hours.

  • Heathrow Staff says:

    Heathrow Limited has contacted the union for a meeting tomorrow at 10am to 3pm. To find a solution to stop the strike.
    The company believes they have contingency in place, we all know as passengers/staff through Heathrow at best of time, there is queues. Imagine the strikes!

  • SammyJ says:

    I see BA have now released a statement and are allowing people to check in hand luggage free.

    First and fast track security ‘may’ be closed.

    Check in opens 3 hrs before long haul, 2 for short haul and you’ve not to arrive before. That’s going to work well if there’s a 4 hour queue!

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