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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 July, 2003, 17:12 GMT 18:12 UK
Heathrow chaos continues
Makeshift departure board at Heathrow
Makeshift departure boards estimate new times
Hundreds of angry and frustrated British Airways passengers are continuing their long wait at Heathrow airport because of delays caused by a dispute over new working conditions.

Some have been stranded for four days, since an unofficial walkout by British Airways staff on Friday.

The airline says it has now reduced the backlog to about 700 passengers and hopes to have it cleared by the end of the day.

But new passengers arriving at Terminal 4, where most long haul departures leave from, were being held in a car park because of the ongoing chaos inside.

Talks between the unions and British Airways resumed on Tuesday morning after stalling without an agreement the night before.

Swipe-card row

If no agreement is reached, there are fears of ballots for strike action and a summer of travel turmoil ahead.

Chris Carroll and Caroline Daley, stranded for 4 days
If they'd just told us something, we could have made a mini-vacation out of the four days we've been here
Chris Carroll, disgruntled BA passenger

The walkout was prompted by the planned introduction of a controversial new swipe-card entry system, which staff feared could lead to them being sent home during quiet periods.

The ensuing disruption left thousands of passengers stranded as 500 flights were cancelled.

Although flights have now resumed, the disruption continues.

"For four days, we've been playing Holiday Inn, taxi cab, and airport," said one frustrated passenger from Detroit, Chris Carroll.

"If they'd just told us something, we could have made a mini-vacation out of this."

Mr Carroll said having sailed across the Atlantic on the QE II he had thought it would be quicker to fly back, but was now regretting his decision.

"I think it's today that the QE II docks in New York. That part of the plan was a total failure. We should have stayed on the QE II. It's faster than BA."

One member of BA's staff, who did not wish to be named, told BBC News Online workers felt hurt and angry about they way they had been treated and were suffering abuse from passengers.

BA plane tail fin
Analysts are convinced that British Airways is a strong enough brand for disgruntled customers to forgive and forget....

"There's actually a lot more to this than the new swipe-card entry system - it was about the way the management tried to impose something on us.

"The management have been saying we don't care about the passengers and that has really hurt a lot of the staff because we do care about them.

"We didn't really go on strike. We were told we had to accept certain conditions, no discussion, so we decided to hold an emergency meeting on Friday so we could decide what to do.

"The staff have had a really hard time - they've even been spat on and some were shouted at outside the airport when people saw the uniforms."

The GMB, Amicus and T&G said BA was delaying the start of the new so-called automated time recording system until lunchtime on Wednesday.


The cost of the dispute to BA has been estimated to be as high as 20m with many passengers vowing never to use the airline again.

Furious passengers were offered hospitality in marquees pitched outside the terminal and encouraged not to throng the main concourse.

People due to fly from Terminal Four on Tuesday were advised to show up as normal.

They were asked not to turn up more than three hours in advance, to avoid making the situation even worse.

Eurostar says it has benefited from BA's woes, with some passengers taking its trains to Paris and Brussels before boarding flights to Asia, the US and other parts of Europe.

BA has set up a special telephone line for passenger information, on 0800 727800.

The BBC's George Eykyn
"Customers won't forget their ordeal"

Tales of travel misery
22 Jul 03  |  UK
BA warns of more delays
20 Jul 03  |  Business
Q&A: Passenger rights
22 Jul 03  |  Business
BA staff return to work
19 Jul 03  |  Business
Strike action grounds BA flights
18 Jul 03  |  Business
BA attendants' ageism fury
15 Jul 03  |  Business
Cost cuts put BA back in the black
19 May 03  |  Business

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