British Airways baggage handlers and loading staff at Heathrow continue a strike Friday, which began Thursday in support of a labor dispute. The third largest airline was forced to cancel all the flights from and to Heathrow airport until at least 6 p.m.
BA was forced to ground more than 100 short and long haul flights while a number of inbound flights were diverted to other airports. Thousands of passengers were stranded overseas by the chaos, which looks set to continue today. The airline said last night it had cancelled all flights into and out of Heathrow until at least 6pm tonight, affecting up to 70,000 passengers.
About 1,000 baggage handlers and loaders took unofficial action in support of workers at catering company Gate Gourmet who were sacked in a row over working practices. Terminals 1 and 4, those most used by BA, were the worst hit, Guardian reports.
The row at Gate Gourmet blew up on Wednesday after more than 650 workers were sacked. Gate Gourmet, which is US-owned, said it had taken the decision in response to unofficial strike action.
The Transport and General Workers' Union, which represents many of the Gate Gourmet staff, accuses the company of acting unilaterally in cutting wages and changing conditions.
British Airways' chief executive Rod Eddington said there would be no flights by the airline at London's Heathrow airport until at least 1700 GMT but did not elaborate on how the strikes by baggage handlers and other ground staff would be overcome.
"I would like to apologize unreservedly to our customers," Eddington said in a statement. "Nearly 100 of our aircraft and 1,000 pilots and cabin crew are in the wrong places (because of the strikes)."
Eddington called on the Transport and General Workers' Union and managers of the Gate Gourmet UK catering firm to resolve the dispute and "end this misery for our customers," Reuters informs.
But negotiations between the two sides ended in failure on Thursday and it was unclear what would happen next.
Despite posting first quarter pre-tax profits of Ј124m, the airline was named among Europe's worst-performing scheduled airlines for punctuality and baggage delivery according to figures released by the Association of European Airlines earlier this month, Guardian reminds.
Holidaymakers scheduled to travel over the weekend were advised to contact reservations on 0800 727 800 to make alternative bookings or seek refunds.