All the Heathrow strikes in April and May explained

Travellers using Heathow could face disruption over the coming weeks, despite Border Force staff suspending a four-day strike that had been set to disrupt Europe’s busiest airport at the end of the Easter school holidays.

Three separate rounds of industrial action are still planned for this month and May. Here’s what you need to know if you are planning to fly in or out of Heathrow during this time.

Border Force strike: April and May

Members of the PCS union who are responsible for immigration controls and passport checks were due to walk out from 11-14 April in a dispute over rosters, which the union said could see 250 staff forced out of their jobs at passport control

That industrial action was suspended in early April. However, further action by members is due to take place next week, in the run-up to the May bank holiday weekend.

More than 300 members working across all terminals have voted to strike at Heathrow Airport for four days between Monday 29 April and Thursday 2 May.

PCS general secretary Fran Heathcote said that “the [roster] changes will disproportionately hit those who are disabled or have caring responsibilities”, adding that “the Home Office should be doing all it can to retain experienced, trained staff – not lose them by introducing an unworkable new roster system.”

PCS members working as Border Force staff at Heathrow last went on strike over the busy Christmas period in 2022, during which time military personnel were drafted in to cover their roles. Passengers passing through the airport did not experience any significant delays.

However, if arrivals back up across the airport terminals, airlines could be forced to delay disembarkation, prompting a cascade of flight delays.

The Home Office says that it has “robust plans in place to minimise disruption and will deploy necessary personnel to meet demand. We are confident in our plans to minimise the impact of this industrial action.”

British Army soldiers were drafted in to work at immigration in 2022 (Photo: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
British Army soldiers were drafted in to work at immigration in 2022 (Photo: Hollie Adams/Bloomberg)

Passenger services and security strike: May

Passengers travelling through Heathrow could also face disruption thanks to a separate dispute involving members of Unite the union who work in passenger services and security.

Nearly 800 members of Unite working for campus security (guards who are responsible for all workers at Heathrow), trolley operations and passenger services (who assist travellers to catch connecting flights) will take part in a week of strike action between Tuesday 7 May and Monday 13 May.

The airport says it has “robust contingency plans in place” and anticipates no impact on passenger journeys on strike days.

The dispute covers the allocation of work to outsourced companies, a proposed change to the identity of Unite members’ employer, and what the union says is a refusal to agree multilateral bargaining for groups of workers at Heathrow.

Heathrow Airport representatives say that there will be no job losses as a result of the changes and that it has been working with Unite to agree “the detailed options for reorganising colleague shifts.”

It also says that the reorganisation will bring all passenger-facing security in house, while formally transferring a “small trolley operations team and small passenger logistics team set-up during Covid” to third-party suppliers.

Refuellers: May

Meanwhile 50 Unite members working as refuellers at Heathrow take industrial action for 72 hours beginning on Saturday 4 May, a bank holiday weekend.

The action is in response to what it describes as “drastic cuts to the terms and conditions of new staff recruited since January 2024.”

The union has warned that planes could be delayed, disrupted and grounded due to their inability to be refuelled.

Members who have voted to strike work for AFS, one of several fuel suppliers at the airport and a venture between oil and gas companies Air BP, Total, Q8 Air and Valero.

They are responsible for refuelling aircraft at Heathrow from 35 airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Delta, Emirates, Air France and Rwanda Air.