Airlines cancel flights to UK over strike

AP News
Posted: Nov 28, 2011 1:36 PM
Airlines cancel flights to UK over strike

Airlines said Monday they are canceling some flights in and out of London's Heathrow Airport ahead of a nationwide public sector strike this week that will include employees who check passports.

As many as 2 million public workers in Britain are expected to join a one-day walkout on Wednesday _ from immigration officials to teachers to garbage collectors _ in an escalating row over planned changes to public-sector pensions.

Civil service staff and contractors will be brought in to cover for striking immigration officials at Britain's borders, though most airlines have advised passengers to reschedule any journeys planned for Wednesday into the U.K..

Heathrow's owner, BAA, warned last week of possible 12-hour delays at immigration halls at Europe's busiest airport as U.K. Border Agency staff join in the action, and asked airlines to fly half-full planes into Heathrow during the strike.

Gatwick Airport has warned passengers to be prepared for "significant disruption" at immigration. The strike also could affect flights in and out of the London area's other three airports _ Stansted, Luton and City _ which handle many flights to and from continental Europe.

Middle East carrier Etihad Airways said Monday it has canceled two flights from Abu Dhabi into Heathrow and one flight from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi "to spare the airline's guests the expected disruption at Heathrow airport and the long delays in waiting to clear immigration."

Etihad said it is operating another flight with reduced passenger capacity.

Greece's Aegean Airlines said it canceled one Heathrow to Athens flight and one from Athens to Heathrow because airport authorities warned of "potentially huge problems with delays."

Aegean said there were possible delays to two of its other flights departing from Heathrow to Athens on Wednesday, plus a flight to Cyprus.

British Airways said it had not canceled any flights on Wednesday and hoped to run a full service, while Virgin Atlantic said it had cut its passenger numbers for the day of the strike by more than 1,000.

British Airways and Virgin both agreed last week to waive the normal charges for passengers looking to rebook their flights for Wednesday.

The walkout is expected to top the scale of Britain's 1979 strikes _ when tens of thousands of people halted work over pay disputes. Some labor unions claim the action could even eclipse Britain's 1926 general strike, when about 1.75 million people joined walkouts.

In the latest dispute, workers oppose government demands that they work longer before receiving a pension, contribute more money each month and accept a pension calculated using their average career salary, rather than their final salary.