UK Airport braces for major disruption as 300 staff announce strike dates in July

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

Travellers could face further disruption as Unite union announced that 300 security and passenger services staff at Gatwick, a major UK airport, are planning to strike on six days in July. This is expected to add to the woes of holidaymakers who are facing a number of other issues already this summer amid air traffic control problems and travel companies going bust.

Unite warned that the issue could potentially cause significant delays at check-in. The pay strikes involve 100 baggage security screeners employed by ICTS and 200 Wilson James workers who provide special assistance services for vulnerable passengers.

Both groups of workers, who earn just above the minimum wage, have rejected pay offers from their employers and will strike from 12 to 14 July and 19 to 21 July. Unite stated that further industrial action would be scheduled if the disputes are not resolved.

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: "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 said the strikes will cause 'significant disruption' to security screening and passenger services. In addition, around 100 dNata HGV drivers and warehouse workers who provide all of EasyJet's onboard catering at Gatwick are being balloted for strike action in a row over shift pay payments.

Dominic Rothwell, the Unite regional officer, 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."

Even so, he did present a sliver of optimism for holidaymakers by suggesting, "There is still time to avoid industrial action, but that will require these companies to table deals that are acceptable to our members."

A representative from London Gatwick said: "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 merely industry action causing dismay for air travellers; a shortage of air traffic controllers has led to numerous cancellations and delays across UK airports. Ryanair and Wizz Air have been impacted significantly in this chaos, with Ryanair confirming 60 flight cancellations and another 150 potential delays.

Neal McMahon, Ryanair's Chief Operations Officer, criticised the ATC services, noting they were at their "worst levels ever". He said: "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."

Likewise, Wizz Air also expressed their concerns with a spokesperson stating: "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."

They 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."

Meanwhile, easyJet decided to cancel numerous flights to and from the UK at late notice last night, leaving tourists scrambling to rearrange plans after finding out the news whilst at the check-in desks at Edinburgh and Glasgow Airports.

EasyJet's action has prompted many of their customers to reach out to the Mirror, expressing their irritation at how the budget airline's decision has affected them. One such individual is 70 year old solo traveller Carole Fuller, who found herself stuck in Bodrum, Turkey, after her flight to Edinburgh was abruptly cancelled.

On Friday, June 28, London Gatwick Airport was forced to temporarily halt flights due to a plane delaying its takeoff, which resulted in 'hot brakes' and blocked the runway.

This week, Youtravel revealed that all bookings up to and including July 26 will be cancelled. The firm said it had taken the 'difficult' decision to extend cancellations beyond July 5 as talks about its future are ongoing.

Youtravel is a subsidiary of the German company FTI Group, which declared insolvency earlier this month. As many UK travel agents use products provided by the group, potentially thousands of travellers could face disruption to their plans.

It has been confirmed that all active bookings for arrivals up to and including July 26 will be cancelled without charge by Monday, July 1. This leaves agents holding packages for UK travellers with accommodation booked via Youtravel only a few days to act.