Sunday 4 August 2019 6:34 pm

Unions suspend tomorrow's Heathrow strike as talks continue

Travel chaos may have been avoided at the last minute as Unite the Union called off its planned strike at Heathrow to continue negotiating with the airport.

Firefighters, security guards and others had been scheduled to walk out from midnight, threatening services at London’s biggest airport.

Talks are set to continue tomorrow, through the conciliation service Acas, the union said. The parties will try to reach a resolution before the second planned day of action on Tuesday.

It is unclear whether airlines that had already announced cancellations will get back to their regular schedules.

“Airlines may choose to reinstate impacted flights. We regret that passengers have been inconvenienced by this and urge them to contact their airline for up to date information on the status of their service,” Heathrow said in a statement

Earlier today Virgin Atlantic said it was moving some of its services to Gatwick from Heathrow, and moving some departure times.

The carrier confirmed this evening that four flights scheduled for tomorrow, will still fly from Gatwick, and not return to Heathrow. All four are flying to New York or Boston. However restrictions on hand luggage and advice to show up earlier than usual to the airport were lifted.

But although it lifted a ban on larger bags, Virgin still advised customers to minimise their hand luggage in case of delays at security.

“We’re pleased that planned industrial action at Heathrow Airport has been suspended,” the company said in a statement.

“As our priority was always to ensure that customers could complete their travel plans on the same day with minimal delay – regardless of the proposed strikes – we moved a small number of Virgin Atlantic flights to operate in/out of Gatwick Airport. These services will not revert back to the original London Heathrow schedule and will remain in place.”

Heathrow said it will “continue talks with Unite tomorrow and we remain hopeful that we can find a resolution and stop this disruptive and unnecessary threat of strike action.”

British Airways, one of the airport’s other biggest carriers, told City AM the flights it cancelled will be reinstated. “Customers will be able to re-book back onto these flights,” a spokesperson said.

Security guards, firefighters, engineers, passenger service personnel and drivers had been expected to go out on strike from midnight.

They complained of pay differences between workers doing the same jobs, and chief executive John Holland-Kaye’s £4.2m pay package last year. Unite claimed the strikes, which include action on 23 and 24 August, will cost Heathrow £4.6m in compensation to airlines.

“Rather than provoking the disruption that strike action will cause, we would urge Heathrow Airport to use this money for an improved pay offer that better reflects the hard work of the workers who keep the airport running safely and smoothly,” said Unite regional coordinating officer Wayne King.

Workers had been offered a 7.3 per cent pay rise over the next two-and-a-half years. The airport is working to find out which flights might be cancelled on Tuesday.