Heathrow faces fresh disruption as fuel supply workers vote to strike

Major airlines using Heathrow face fresh disruption this summer as workers at an aircraft refuelling firm voted to strike over pay.

Aviation Fuel Services (AFS) provides fuelling services to more than 70 airlines at the airport including Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, United, SAS, Air France, Emirates, Delta, JAL, KLM and Singapore Airlines.

Workers will stage an initial 72 hour walkout from 5am on July 21 until 4.59am on July 24 just as many schools in England break up for summer holidays.

The strike action will cause “considerable disruption and delays” throughout Heathrow, the Unite union warned.

The latest threat to flights came after British Airways trimmed more services to reduce its schedule by 11% from a 10% cut announced in May.

BA is not affected by the AFS action as it uses a different supplier.

But Unite union regional officer Kevin Hall warned: “Strike action will inevitably cause considerable disruption across Heathrow but this strike is entirely of AFS’s own making.

“Even now strike action and the resulting disruption can be avoided if AFS returns to the negotiating table and makes an offer that meets our member’ expectations.”

Unite members at AFS recorded a 93% ‘yes’ vote for strike action on a 92% turnout.

The dispute centres on union efforts to end a three year pay freeze. 

AFS is a joint venture operation whose partners include BP, Total Energies, Q8 Aviation and Valero Energy.

Meanwhile, more than 2,000 flights across Europe face being cancelled in the first half of July, according to new analysis of scheduling in response to operational challenges.

Travel data firm Mabrian listed easyJet as cancelling almost 1,400 flights between July 1-15, or one in 20 departures.

But Turkish Airlines was identified as cutting the highest proportion of services in the period, followed by easyJet and budget rival Wizz Air.

Noting that the data does not include flights cancelled at the last minute, Mabrian described the situation as “highly unusual” at the start of the summer peak. 

Sales and marketing director Carlos Cendra said: “We’ve never seen anything like this and it is a reflection of the labour difficulties that airlines and airports are having right now, making them unable to return to 2019 capacity levels.

“However whilst easyJet ‘s overall number of flights cancelled is 1,394, as a percentage of their air capacity it is fair to point out that this is just 5.5% – or one in 20 flights – and that, perhaps surprisingly, it is Turkish Airlines that has the highest ratio of cancelled flights, at nearly 7%.”

He added: “In fact we must keep some perspective on this overall situation, as when we look at the overall numbers in terms of percentage of the air capacity of an airline, what we notice is that in many cases the cancellations in relative terms are very low.

“Still, every cancellation represents a holiday nightmare for someone and a loss in revenue for the airline – no one is winning here and clearly as an industry we’re a long way from solving the problem.”

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