Heathrow walkout cancelled, but Ryanair strikes possible – here's everything you need to know

The summer is peak season for UK airports
Airlines including BA and Ryanair are bracing for strikes Credit: getty

It's business as usual at Heathrow Airport – the strikes scheduled for August 23 and 24 have been postponed. But Ryanair pilots have announced fresh action. 

Heathrow Airport workers – including security officers, engineers, drivers and firefighters – were due to strike for 48 hours, in response to an ongoing dispute over fair pay rises and wage disparities.

However, industrial action has been postponed to allow talks between Heathrow and the Unite union to continue. 

If the dispute is not resolved, further Unite strikes could yet take place – but it isn't the only union to be considering industrial action this summer. 

See below for advice on what to do if your travel plans are affected.

Disruption is possible Credit: getty

Who else is striking this summer?

The prospect of strikes by British Airways pilots loomed closer a fortnight ago after the airline lost an attempt in the high court to block industrial action.

Thousands of summer holiday plans could be disrupted should a walk-out by members of the British Airlines Pilots Association (Balpa) union go ahead. 

In July, Balpa pilots voted overwhelmingly in favour of industrial action in a dispute over pay. The union, which said it wants to resolve the issue, must give BA 14 days notice of any strike, which places possible disruption in late August at the earliest. British Airways said in a statement it was "disappointed", adding: "We continue to pursue every avenue to find a solution to avoid industrial action and protect our customers' travel plans.”

Pilots with Ryanair in the UK - also with Balpa - have, too, voted to strike, with two instances pencilled in: the Bank Holiday weekend of August 22-23 and September 2-4. 

The airline's pilots employed in Ireland have said they will walk out on August 22-23 as well, impacting services between the UK and Ireland. 

Strikes at London Stansted have been called off after Easyjet check-in staff accepted a pay deal.  

What does it mean for your flight?

Ryanair has called for a return to talks to head off strike action, adding that a walkout could impact thousands of holidaymakers.

As the strike nears it is likely the airline will cancel flights, notifying passengers as and when. 

Should a strike at Heathrow go ahead, passengers would be advised to contact their airline directly to check if their flight is still scheduled to depart. The airport warned at the start of the month ahead of a strike that very nearly took place of long queues at security and check-in, and advised passengers to arrive . 

Before the early August strikes were called off, thousands of passengers were offered alternative flights or a full refund, but warned they would not be entitled to any compensation under rules that exclude airports or the unions from having to make any pay-outs for strikes that disrupt flights.

Heathrow has said it will continue to implement contingency plans and will be working with airlines to minimise disruption.

BA has in the past relaxed its terms and conditions to allow passengers to make changes to bookings in the event of industrial action.

Am I entitled to a refund if my flight is cancelled?

Yes. European Union regulations require airlines to offer you either a full refund of the unused parts of your tickets, or to re-route you to your destination, as soon as possible. It may also allow you to rebook your flights for a later date at no extra cost.

It is worth noting that should you still want to travel after your flight has been cancelled, airlines are obliged to help you to your destination as soon as you want, even if that means being booked onto another carrier.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) says: “Although most airlines will book you onto another of their flights to the same destination, if an alternative airline is flying there significantly sooner then you may have the right to be booked onto that flight instead. You can discuss this with your airline.”

Will I get cash compensation?

Unlikely. Airlines are not liable to pay the additional cash compensation set out by EU regulations because they would not consider themselves directly responsible for the disruption.

If you receive less than seven days’ notice of a cancellation, you may be able to claim on the timings of the alternative flight.

The CAA says: “If your new flight arrives more than two hours after the scheduled time of your original flight, you can claim €250 – no matter what time it departs.

“Otherwise, if your new flight arrives earlier than two hours after the scheduled time of your original flight, you can claim €125.”

What if my flight is delayed?

First and foremost, you are entitled to care and assistance, in the form and food and drink and, in the case of overnight stays or being stranded abroad, accommodation. Spend reasonably and be sure to keep receipts. 

You could then be entitled to additional compensation, depending on the length of your flight and how late you arrive at your destination. 

For delays of three hours or more you are entitled to a cash payment of €250 (£225) for short flights and €400 (£361) for a flight distance of 1,500-3,500km. For flights of over 3,500km you will receive €300 (£271) for a delay of 3-4 hours; €600 (£540) for more than four hours.

My flight has been cancelled - can I cancel my accommodation?

If you have booked a hotel, a villa or other accommodation independently of your travel arrangements (i.e. not as part of a package holiday) your contract is directly with the hotel or villa and you are responsible for any cancellation. If you can’t get there, you will have to do your best to persuade them to give you a refund or rebook for a later date – but they are not obliged to do this and you may lose money.

Am I covered by my travel insurance?

Your policy may pay out a small amount for very long delays (normally over 12 hours), but not usually enough to pay for more than a meal or two. A few policies have cover for a “consequential loss”, such as a hotel booking made independently. You will need to check the terms and conditions which apply to your policy directly with your insurer.

Have you been affected by disruption at UK airports this summer? Get in touch via [email protected]