Heathrow Airport had the potential of becoming quite a mess, with British Airways on the brink of striking over their pay dispute, and American Airlines deciding to restrict its employees' travel from Heathrow Airport on Friday and Saturday.
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American Airlines previously released the following statement to its employees regarding the travel restriction:
With the strong possibility of a strike by certain London Heathrow (LHR) airport personnel looming, we want to be sure our airport teams have the support they need to take care of our customers. That’s why non-rev and business travel (both on American and ZED/other airlines) departing from or connecting through LHR will be restricted July 26-27.
If LHR is your final destination, you are good to travel. While not restricted, we also encourage you to avoid non-rev travel through other European gateways as we will likely need to reaccommodate passengers through these cities, making for higher than normal loads.
Should the potential strike continue beyond these dates, we’ll provide additional guidance. Thanks for your help setting up our airport teams for success as they navigate a potentially challenging time.
Some airlines, including United Airlines but not yet American Airlines, issued travel waivers in connection to the issue which was reportedly regarding security crews.
However, the restriction, which only applied to AA employees, was canceled after a resolution was reached.
Both American Airlines and British Airways are a part of the One World Alliance which means they share revenue when they fly across the Atlantic Ocean. In turn, American sees Heathrow as just as much of a hub for them as it is for British Airways. Potential outages from both airlines could have proved financially damaging for the carriers.
The British Airline Pilots' Association's 4,000 members voted in favor of a strike after three days of negotiations. About 90 percent of British Airways' pilots are represented by the BALPA, which means a strike would cause a large disruption in service.
British Airways Boeing 747 takes off above the tailfins of other BA aircraft at London Heathrow, UK on 27 July 2009 (British Airways)
“This strong result demonstrates the resolve of BA pilots, and shows BA that it must table a sensible improved offer if a strike is to be averted," BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said. "Settlement of this dispute is in BA’s hands. We do not wish to inconvenience our customers which is why we have tried to resolve this matter through negotiation starting last November – it is BA who has regrettably chosen to drag this out into the summer months."
British Airways refuted that claim, blaming BALPA and saying BALPA's inaction would disrupt customers' travel plans.
BALPA says they don't have any proposed dates for the strike, but it could start as early as mid-August.
If the strike happens, it would be the first by British Airways pilots since the 1970s. Strikes can truly cripple an airline as finding replacement qualified airline crews can be difficult.