Union issues airport misery warning

THE chaos that engulfed travellers at Stansted Airport yesterday could continue throughout the summer after a threatened strike by baggage handlers and check-in staff.

THE chaos that engulfed travellers at Stansted Airport yesterday could continue throughout the summer after a threatened strike by baggage handlers and check-in staff.

Hundreds of workers all the UK's major airports will walkout in the third week of June unless fresh talks are held over a pay dispute.

It will make grim news for holidaymakers, many of whom were also caught up in the chaos caused by an air traffic control computer glitch yesterday morning.

The 6am failure on a 30-year-old computer system in West Drayton, near Heathrow, meant dozens of flights nationwide were cancelled and others were badly delayed.


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Although the National Air Traffic Services' (Nats) system was up and running again within an hour, huge queues quickly built up at airport check-in desks.

At Stansted, 15 flights were cancelled - 11 from easyJet and four from Ryanair. Although the Essex airport was full operational by 9am yesterday, the backlog meant delays of up to four hours during the day.

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However, a spokesman for Stansted Airport said last night: "We expect everything to be back to normal by tomorrow."

John Riseborough, 67, of East Harling, near Thetford, Norfolk, was still waiting yesterday afternoon for his Ryanair flight to Rome to celebrate his Ruby wedding anniversary with his wife Thelma.

He told the EADT: "People here are queuing quietly as they were warned about the problem and they were prepared. Our flight should have left at 1.30pm but we've been told it will be two hours late. We were looking forward to a holiday to celebrate our anniversary and it's very disappointing.

A spokesman for easyJet said passengers booked on cancelled flights could either transfer their flight within 30 days or receive a refund.

Meanwhile the GMB union said its 1,000 baggage handler and check-in staff members at ground handling agent, Aviance, will take industrial action unless peace moves in a pay row begin soon.

Ed Blissett, the union's senior organiser, said provisional strike dates had been set for the third week in June, although he held back from naming the actual days.

The union has written to Aviance, which acts as an agent for First Choice charter flights as well as regional carriers at Stansted, offering to postpone the strikes if negotiations resumed.

The company has offered an increase of 2.5%, which was attacked by the union as a "pay freeze".

Mr Blissett warned of "massive disruption" to holidaymakers unless the deadlock was broken.

Mr Blissett added: "Aviance has the power to prevent misery at Britain's airports."

Aviance could not be contacted for comment last night.

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