Christmas travel saved as airport strike is called off at the last minute | The Sun

BRITS flying from Heathrow over the next few days have been given a boost after a baggage handler strike has been called off.

Ground staff were due to walk out at 4am tomorrow (December 16) for 72 hours as part of an ongoing pay dispute between union bosses and contractors.

The strikes were expected to hit flights operated by 10 major airlines departing from Heathrow Terminals 2, 3 and 4.

These include Air Canada, American Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss Air, Air Portugal, Austrian Airlines, Qantas, Egypt Air, Aer Lingus and Finnair.

However, Unite has announced that they have called off the strikes after an improved pay offer was put forward by private contractors Menzies.

In a statement, the union said: "Unite has been adamant that Menzies was able to offer an improved pay offer and that has proved to be the case.

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“As an act of goodwill, the strike action scheduled to begin tomorrow has been suspended so that members can be balloted on the new offer.”

However, it may not all be good news, with strike action for later in the month still scheduled to go ahead, if the members do not agree to the improved terms.

That 72-hour walkout is due to take place from Thursday, December 29 until Sunday, January 1.

The striking workers are employed by private contractor Menzies Aviation, who Unite say need to make a "fair" offer to the staff.

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According to Unite, the ground handlers have received a "real-terms pay cut" from previous offers.

Guy Hobbs, Editor of Which? Travel advised passengers of what to do in case their plans for Christmas travel are affected.

He said: "Airlines affected should work quickly to inform passengers of any potential changes to their booking as a result of strike action, and ensure travellers are aware of their rights to rebooking or refunds if their flight is cancelled.

"Anyone still looking to book a flight during this time may want to consider alternative airports."

The now cancelled action follows a similar dispute in November, and Heathrow Airport has tried to reassure passengers, stating neither British Airways or Virgin would be affected.

Along with passengers whose flights will no longer be affected, Menzies will be relieved by the cancellation, although they have said that they will be prepared to deal with any future action, should another strike take place.

Miguel Gomez Sjunnesson, from Menzies Aviation said: "We are well prepared for further industrial action and are working closely with key partners to put in place robust contingency plans.

"The previous strike, which involved about 250 of our 1500 ground handling workforce at Heathrow, had minimal impact on our operations with no flight cancellations attributable to Menzies and 97% of flights departing on time.

"We remain committed to seeking a resolution on the pay talks in our ground handling operations so our employees can receive their increase now."

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Heathrow will also be affected by border force walkouts across the festive period, threatening those with Christmas travel plans.

While Brits using the Eurostar to get away in December and January will also face travel disruption after security staff announced strike action on December 16, 18, 22 and 23.

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