British Airways cancels dozens of flights ahead of Heathrow airport security strike

British Airways has cancelled at least 32 flights to and from London Heathrow on Friday 31 March alone, the first day of a strike by security staff.

Around 1,400 members of the Unite union working in security at Heathrow airport, mainly at Terminal 5, are walking out from Friday 31 March until Easter Sunday, 9 April.

Heathrow’s management says: “Our contingency plans will keep the airport operating as normal throughout.”

But in an apparent bid to reduce the number of passengers passing through security, British Airways has grounded dozens of short-haul flights that would normally operate at Terminal 5 over the first weekend of the action.

Friday 31 March, Saturday 1 April and Sunday 2 April are likely to be the days of maximum pressure at Britain’s busiest airport, with many schools breaking up ahead of Easter.

The Independent has compared the BA schedule for 31 March with the next “normal” Friday, 14 April; operations on Good Friday, 7 April, follow a different pattern.

Among domestic destinations, Aberdeen, Belfast City, Edinburgh and Glasgow are seeing cancellations.

In Europe, services to Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Nice and Stockholm are affected.

Passengers whose flights are cancelled are entitled to be flown to their destination on the same day as originally booked, including on another airline if BA has no availability.

In addition, British Airways has taken its outbound flights from Heathrow off sale for the coming weekend.

Passengers seeking flights at on 31 March to destinations that are normally served from Terminal 5 – including New York, Singapore and Dubai – are showing no availability.

New York passengers are being offered availability on American Airlines, BA’s partner, flying from Heathrow Terminal 3. To Dubai and Singapore, prospective travellers are being told to use Qatar Airways via Doha.

The flights have not been cancelled, and the corresponding inbound flights on 31 March and 1 April are still selling. The aim is to reduce the number of outbound passengers and ease pressure on security queues at Heathrow Terminal 5.

Prospective passengers to many other destinations are being offered options from London City or Gatwick airports instead, or told to travel before 31 March or from 3 April onwards.

The Independent has asked British Airways for a comment. BA flights from Heathrow Terminal 3, including to Algiers, Gibraltar and Oslo, are unaffected.

Unite’s general secretary, Sharon Graham, says the Heathrow security staff are “on poverty wages” and “unable to make ends”. Heathrow says the security staff have been given a 10 per cent pay rise plus “further enhancements”.

But talks broke down last week and no further negotiations are planned before the strike begins.