Thousands of holidaymakers could be denied compensation after they booked new flights and hotels before unions called off strike action at Heathrow again at the 11th hour.
The Unite union said last night it had suspended a walkout at Britain’s busiest airport that had been planned for today after receiving a better pay deal for workers.
Many families trying to get away for the summer holidays had paid out for new tickets and accommodation believing they would need alternative arrangements.
But today’s strike was called off at just after 6pm last night and although around 12 flights are cancelled today most have been told their original flights would in fact depart as planned.
The Civil Aviation Authority has said it is unlikely that anyone would be entitled to any compensation despite the last minute cancellation of the industrial action.
Victims have said they are ‘collateral damage’ in the row between the airport and union chiefs, who were accused of ‘not caring’ for passengers caught up in the chaos.
Today’s strike at London Heathrow (terminal 5 pictured last night) was called off at the 11th hour yesterday
Some passengers were left frustrated after they were forced to pay out extra cash for alternative flights in anticipation of the strike – but are unlikely to be compensated
Thousands planning to go on holiday face an anxious wait after a militant union confirmed that a strike at Heathrow could still go ahead later this month.
The announcement, which came after a strike planned for yesterday was suspended so that talks could continue, brings relief for those planning to jet off today from Britain’s busiest airport.
But Unite said that unless members accept the deal, strikes scheduled for August 23 and 24 are scheduled to go ahead as planned.
A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘Unite will now take an improved offer to its members and we remain hopeful that we can find a resolution and stop this disruptive and unnecessary threat of strike action.
‘We regret passengers have been inconvenienced by this and urge them to contact their airline for up-to-date information on the status of their service.’
The previous pay offer was worth 7.3 per cent over two-and-a-half years.
Heathrow said its pay package was above RPI inflation, ‘competitive and fair’, adding: ‘This is higher than the pay increases recently offered to public sector staff and Heathrow’s own managerial colleagues at 2.4 per cent.’
Around 4,000 workers including security staff, engineers and firefighters are involved in the dispute, which continues to cast a shadow over the holidays of hundreds of thousands.
Heathrow has recruited an army of 1,200 employees on standby to fill some roles – such as customer service – that could be hit by strike action.
The airport has even arranged for Surrey fire brigade to step in, as firefighters employed directly by Heathrow are among those preparing to strike.
But a shortage of specially trained security workers to screen passengers is expected to lead to long queues, delays and cancellations if the strikes later this month go ahead.
Around a dozen flights have been cancelled today – but people who paid out for replacement flights look likely to be out of pocket
Passengers have endured disruption and uncertainty despite the suspension of yesterday and today’s action.
Some 177 flights were initially cancelled over the 48-hour period as a precautionary measure ahead of the strike, affecting around 30,000 people.
The situation was made worse by the fact that Heathrow and the airlines had not published a list of all the cancellations by Sunday afternoon, leaving frustrated and confused travellers in limbo.
Airlines reinstated dozens of cancelled flights, but 16 of yesterday’s departures remained grounded and five were moved to other London airports.
A total of 3 per cent of the day’s flights were affected, including those operated by Virgin Atlantic, Air France, Swiss and Lufthansa.
British Airways reinstated all of its flights yesterday, but passengers on some were warned of a ‘significantly reduced catering offering’ due to the ‘late postponement’ of the strike.
Virgin Atlantic continued with its plan to switch a small number of flights to Gatwick despite yesterday’s strike being called off.
Heathrow refused to say how many of today’s flights had already been cancelled as a precaution, but suggested there would be less disruption than yesterday. It urged passengers to get updates from their airline.