Heathrow airport is threatened by further chaos this summer after workers who are responsible for refuelling planes voted for a 72-hour strike over wages and 1,500 British Airways flights were set for cancellation.
Staff at Aviation Fuel Services (AFS) have backed a walkout on July 21 over its refusal to raise wages, the trade union Unite said. It added that this is likely to cause “considerable disruption and delays throughout Heathrow”.
AFS, a joint venture with fuel companies such as BP, provides fuelling services to over 70 airlines at the airport including Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, United, SAS, Air France, Emirates, Delta, JAL, KLM and Singapore Airlines.
British Airways, which is axing flights for up to 105,000 holidaymakers from Heathrow and Gatwick this month, is not affected as it uses a different supplier.
In May, British Airways announced that it would cancel 10 per cent of flights between April and October in an attempt to avoid having to axe flights on the day of departure.
But its timetable has now been reduced by 11 per cent. The extra 1 per cent equates to 1,500 flights. New flight cancellations were first reported by The Telegraph on Tuesday and 650 are set to be cut from Heathrow and Gatwick in July alone.
The vote result was announced as air and rail passengers brace for an unprecedented summer of walkouts as staff across the travel sector protest pay and conditions.
The Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA), which represents station and ticket office workers, also said on Tuesday that more than 300 staff at CrossCountry trains and East Midlands Railway will strike over pay, jobs and conditions.
The move comes as more than 90 per cent of train services across Britain face being cancelled later this summer as drivers threaten their first national walkout since 1995.
Aslef, the drivers’ union, will ballot on industrial action at 10 train companies to coincide with similar action by the TSSA.
It follows industrial action by the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union last month, which sparked the biggest disruption on British railways in a generation.
Mick Whelan, head of Aslef, warned of “massive” disruption, telling the Financial Times: “It will be far more disruptive than it has been in the past. We do not go on strike very often.”
Unite has also announced that 2,400 Royal Mail managers will work to rule from July 15 to 19 and strike on July 20, 21 and 22. The strike was called over plans to cut 700 jobs and cut pay by £7,000, Unite said.
A Heathrow spokesman said the airport is in discussions with airlines on contingency plans “including using other fuel suppliers already operating at the airport”.