Heathrow workers to strike in run-up to Fifa World Cup in Qatar

The action will affect passengers with several airlines, including Qatar Airways and Emirates

A British Airways passenger plane prepares to land at Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport in west London. Reuters
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Hundreds of employees at Europe’s busiest airport will walk out this month in the run-up to the football World Cup in Qatar over demands for better pay.

Unite said 700 workers involved in ground handling, airside transport and cargo, and employed by Emirates Group's airport services subsidiary dnata and Menzies, will strike for three days at Heathrow, starting from November 18.

Several airlines will be affected by the action, including Qatar Airways, Emirates, Virgin, Singapore Airlines and Cathay-Pacific.

The Fifa World Cup in Qatar begins in the middle of the strike on November 20.

"Strike action will inevitably cause disruption, delays and cancellations to flights throughout Heathrow, with travellers to the World Cup particularly affected," Unite regional officer Kevin Hall said in the statement.

The union said the strike action would lead to disruption, cancellations and delays at Heathrow terminals 2, 3 and 4.

It said Qatar Airways, which has scheduled an additional 10 flights a week during the World Cup, would be particularly affected.

Heathrow declined to comment on the strikes, while dnata and Menzies did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Entry rules were changed this week for fans travelling to the World Cup in Qatar.

Shoppers at Souq Waqif, a traditional market in Doha, Qatar, home to the 2022 Fifa World Cup. EPA

World Cup fans without tickets will be allowed to enter Qatar from December 2, meaning fans without tickets can enjoy all the football fever of the knockout stages.

In October it was revealed that Heathrow’s losses had increased, despite an improvement in passenger numbers.

About 18 million people passed through Heathrow this summer, making it the busiest airport in Europe over the period.

But the airport's underlying losses increased to £442 million ($503m) in the year to date “as regulated income fails to cover costs, adding to the £4 billion in the prior two years”, it said.

“Headwinds of a global economic crisis, war in Ukraine and the impact of Covid-19 mean we are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic demand for a number of years, except at peak times,” it said in a statement.

Heathrow recently lifted a passenger cap imposed in July to limit the number travelling to 100,000 per day amid staff shortages.

Decades of flight: Heathrow through the years - in pictures

“We are working with airlines to agree a highly targeted mechanism that, if needed, would align supply and demand on a small number of peak days in the lead-up to Christmas,” the airport said.

“This would encourage demand into less busy periods, protecting the heavier peaks, and avoiding flight cancellations due to resource pressures.”

The airport also aims to build back its ecosystem to meet demand at peak periods.

"To do so, businesses across the airport need to recruit and train up to 25,000 security cleared people ― a huge logistical challenge," it said.

Updated: November 04, 2022, 12:36 PM
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