Tens of thousands of passengers are facing fresh mayhem at Heathrow airport at the start of the summer holidays as workers at refueling companies go on strike.
Staff who work for companies refueling Emirates, Virgin Atlantic, Delta and KLM services are to walk out for three days starting on Thursday.
Unite, the trade union that represents refueling staff that work for AFS Aviation, has rejected a 10pc pay rise, saying it would result in a real terms pay cut.
Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said: “AFS is wholly owned by incredibly wealthy energy companies who are entirely able to provide our members with a decent pay increase. This is yet another example of energy companies increasing profits at the expense of workers.”
Unite regional officer Kevin Hall added: “The strike action will cause severe disruption and delays at Heathrow but this dispute is entirely of AFS’s own making. It initially refused to enter into negotiations and only belatedly made an offer which workers judged entirely unacceptable.”
British Airways flights will not be directly affected by the industrial action – though there could be a wider knock-on impact across Heathrow.
The UK flag carrier last week averted strikes by check-in staff at Heathrow by offering a “vastly improved offer”. BA had previously refused to back down in a row over a 10pc pay cut that was agreed by ground crew during the pandemic.
The majority of schools in England will break up for the summer holidays on Thursday, July 21.
Heathrow has been plunged into a bitter row with airlines over a raft of cancellations and scenes of travel chaos at the airport in recent months.
Airlines say that Heathrow rejected their pleas to gear up for a glut of summer bookings.
But writing in The Telegraph on Tuesday, Heathrow chairman Lord Deighton leapt to the defense of under-fire chief executive John Holland-Kaye.
He accused “slasher” airlines of failing to attract enough baggage handlers at the airport by paying higher wages.
He said: “Ground handling is a highly competitive, labor intensive, low margin business, characterized by short term contracts. Airlines have driven down costs over the years, and this was one of the first costs they slashed during the pandemic.
“For months, ground handling companies have been trying to recruit and train skilled workers, but if their airline customers aren’t willing to pay market rates, then they aren’t able to fill the posts.”
A Heathrow spokesman said: “We are aware of proposed industrial action from Aviation Fuel Services (AFS) colleagues at Heathrow, and we are in discussions with our airline partners on what contingency plans they can implement, including using other fuel suppliers already operating at the airport.”