UK flights at Christmas may be disrupted by strike

Ryanair says passengers may be restricted to ‘hand luggage only’ if Swissport action goes ahead

Swissport check-in staff and baggage handlers at airports across UK have announced a two-day strike. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

Swissport check-in staff and baggage handlers at airports across UK have announced a two-day strike. Photograph: Dave Thompson/PA Wire

 

Christmas flights into and out of UK airports are facing severe disruption following the announcement of a two-day strike by check-in staff and baggage handlers.

The degree of disruption is unclear and will largely depend on the number of Swissport staff – the company in dispute – working in each individual airport.

People flying with Ryanair between the UK and Ireland may be restricted to carrying hand luggage only due to the action.

A Ryanair spokesman said: “All of our flights to/from the UK are scheduled to operate as normal. Should this action proceed, our flights may operate with hand-luggage only and we will update customers accordingly.”

Aer Lingus said it doesn not anticipate any disruption to its schedule or with baggage but should the situation change, passengers will be kept up to date via email, texts and social media.

More than 1,500 Swissport employees will walk out for 48 hours from Friday December 23rd, following what has been described as an ongoing dispute over pay and conditions.

The forthcoming action involves airport workers at Belfast, Gatwick, Stansted, Heathrow, Birmingham, Aberdeen, Bristol, Bournemouth, Cardiff, Doncaster, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds/Bradford, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, and Southampton.

Airports such as Birmingham and Newcastle, which are almost entirely manned by Swissport workers, will likely feel the worst effects.

London City Airport on the other hand has no Swissport staff.

In a statement, Unite said it has now called on management to enter “constructive negotiations . . . in a bid to avoid Christmas travel disruption at the UK’s airports”.

Union members have rejected a 4.65 per cent, three-year pay deal for 2015 to 2017 which the union says is “barely keeping pace with inflation”.

Members are also angered by related changes to terms and conditions which they say will include freezing overtime payments and restructuring pay.

“We appreciate that this is a very busy time of year at the UK’s airports and that’s why we are calling for the company to engage in constructive talks,” said Unite national officer for civil air transport Oliver Richardson in a statement.

“Our members are only taking this industrial action as a last resort in a bid to reach a fair settlement. Our members have not had a pay rise since 2014.”

In a statement, Swissport said it was committed to reaching an agreement to try to avoid strike action and is putting in place measures to “minimise any disruption to our customer airlines and the travelling public” should it proceed.

“The company remains willing to try and reach agreement to settle this dispute and is open to involve ACAS [the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service] in any further discussions,” it said.

Swissport, the world’s largest provider of ground and cargo handling services, employs more than 6,000 employees across 23 airports within the UK & Northern Ireland.