Heathrow Airport vows it is ‘committed to safety’ as strike hits Christmas travel rush

Heathrow Airport introduce new safety measures for passengers

Heathrow Airport workers began a staged strike action yesterday, expected to go on until Friday 18 December according to Unite Union. The Union claims the protests are to take place following Heathrow’s “decision to fire and rehire its 4,000 employees on vastly inferior contracts. Unite members are facing permanent pay cuts up to 25 percent of their pay (£8,000 per annum).”

The union is also claiming: “Despite Heathrow airport continuing to operate during the strikes, management has failed to provide details of its contingency plans and questions remain about safety.”

Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “Workers will be ramping up strike action this week as Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAL) has refused to withdraw its decision to brutally fire and rehire its loyal staff.

“The airport’s success was built on its workforce, who have continued to ensure it operates throughout the pandemic, on occasion risking their health.”

A Heathrow Airport spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “It’s very disappointing that Unite has decided to take strike action during the worst crisis to hit the aviation sector.

“Our focus has been to protect jobs – which is why we’ve offered every frontline colleague who wants one a job at a market rate salary above the London Living Wage, even despite a loss of over £1.5bn to our business so far this year.

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“We do not believe this strike action is necessary, but have activated extensive contingency plans which will keep the airport open and operating safely throughout this period.”

In a post to Twitter, Heathrow Airport added: “Industrial action is due to take place today and tomorrow.

“We remain as committed as ever to the safety of our passengers – our contingency plans are in place to ensure the airport remains open, secure & operating safely.”

The airline has also issued advice for those who are planning to travel throughout the normally busy Christmas period in light of the coronavirus pandemic.

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Following London’s move from Tier 2 restrictions into Tier 3, following an increase in coronavirus infections, the airport put out advice for those expecting to pass through the airport in the coming days.

There are a number of measures in place to increase social distancing within airport terminals.

This means passengers who do not hold a valid ticket for travel will not be allowed to enter the airport’s terminals.

Any “welcoming and farewell parties” are being asked to stay in their cars or at home if possible.

Those preparing to fly are being asked to wrap up warm as they may be asked to wait outside terminals if congestion starts to build.

Passengers are also reminded that face coverings are mandatory at the airport, particularly as “social distancing is not always possible”.

Heathrow is tasing passengers to allow two hours ahead of a short-haul flight, and three hours for long-haul.

However, it warns not to arrive any earlier as this could increase “unnecessary dwell time and numbers” at the airport.

Passengers are also asked to regularly use hand sanitiser, or wash their hands, during their journey.

Kathryn Leahy, airport operations director said: “Protecting our colleagues and customers is always our number one priority.

“In the coming days and over the Christmas period, our terminals are likely to feel busy and we will need to manage this carefully.

“We are asking passengers to support us in maintaining social distancing, wearing facemasks and following the instructions of the additional COVID marshals we will have on duty.

“That way, working together, we can ensure a safe and swift getaway for everyone.”

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