UK Airport braces for disruption as staff set strike dates in July

Passengers at Gatwick airport could be hit by 6 days of strikes in July
-Credit: (Image: Getty Images)

Holidaymakers can expect further disruption as security and passenger services staff at Gatwick, one of the UK's busiest airports, are to strike on six separate days this July. The announcement was made by the Unite union, who warned that the action could provoke significant check-in delays.

The strikes involve 100 baggage security screeners from ICTS and 200 workers from Wilson James, who provide special assistance to vulnerable passengers. These workers, whose earnings just surpass the minimum wage, will commence their strike on the 12th to 14th of July and 19th to 21st of July after rejecting pay offers. If the dispute is not settled, Unite has declared an intention for further industrial action.

Unite's general secretary, Sharon Graham, defended the workers' actions, stating: "These workers undertake incredibly demanding roles at one of the UK's busiest airports. They are simply seeking a fair day's pay. ICTS and Wilson James are wealthy companies and can well afford to put forward acceptable pay offers. Our members at Gatwick have Unite's total backing in taking strike action for a decent pay rise."

Unite warned it believes the strikes will severely affect both security screening and passenger services process. On top of this, roughly 100 dNata HGV drivers and warehouse workers supplying all of EasyJet's onboard catering at Gatwick are also being balloted for potential strike action, over a dispute regarding shift pay payments, reports the Mirror.

Unite regional officer Dominic Rothwell commented on the situation, said: "The employers in these disputes are responsible for any disruption caused to passengers at Gatwick. These disputes could be easily resolved if reasonable offers are put forward."

He also offered a ray of hope for those looking to get away, adding, "There is still time to avoid industrial action, but that will require these companies to table deals that are acceptable to our members."

In response to concerns, a spokesperson from London Gatwick sought to calm nerves by saying: "We are working with our suppliers to avoid any impacts and we expect to operate a normal summer holiday flight schedule for our airlines and passengers on these dates."

However, it's not only strikes causing trouble for travellers; a lack of air traffic controllers has resulted in numerous cancellations and delays at UK airports. Ryanair and Wizz Air have been particularly affected, with Ryanair confirming 60 flights cancelled and another 150 delayed.

Neal McMahon, Ryanair's Chief Ops Officer, criticised the ATC services, claiming they are at their "worst levels ever" and remarked: "These repeated ATC delays and cancellations are unacceptable. We apologise to our passengers for these repeated ATC flight delays and flight cancellations, which are deeply regrettable but beyond Ryanair's control."

Wizz Air has responded by saying, "Wizz Air was prepared to ensure smooth summer operations for its passengers; however, the air traffic control system seems to be experiencing significant issues this summer."

The airline added: "As an industry, we are compelled to escalate these issues with the relevant air traffic management authorities, including Eurocontrol, to ensure proper mitigation actions are implemented to minimise disruptions."

Just last night, there were reports of easyJet cancelling numerous flights to and from the UK on very short notice. Some holiday-goers had to quickly rewrite their plans after hearing the news at the check-in counters at both Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports.

On Friday, June 28, London Gatwick Airport experienced a disruption of its own, as it was forced to temporarily suspend flights when a plane delayed its takeoff. This caused the aircraft's brakes to heat up, blocking the runway.

More recent news revealed that Youtravel made an announcement declaring the cancellation of all bookings up until July 26. The company explained that this 'difficult' decision to extend cancellations beyond July 5 was made amidst ongoing discussions regarding the firm's future.

Youtravel, a subsidiary of the German firm FTI Group which recently filed for insolvency, could potentially disrupt the travel plans of thousands of UK holidaymakers. Many UK travel agents use products provided by this group.

It has been announced that all active bookings for arrivals up to and including 26 July will be cancelled without charge by 1 July. This gives agents who have booked accommodation through Youtravel only a few days to make alternative arrangements for their UK clients.