[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 12 August 2005, 17:13 GMT 18:13 UK
BA Heathrow staff return to work
People waiting at Heathrow
Passengers still do not know when flights will resume
BA staff who took part in an unofficial strike that has left thousands of passengers stranded at Heathrow have returned to work, the airline says.

About 1,000 ground staff walked out in sympathy with workers sacked by BA's in-flight meals supplier Gate Gourmet.

It led to all BA Heathrow flights being cancelled until 2000 BST. Thirty one flights will take off later on Friday.

Talks are under way at conciliation service Acas as passengers await news of exactly when flights will leave.

CHAOS AT HEATHROW
Wed: Gate Gourmet's afternoon shift is sacked after workers miss a deadline to report to work. BA cancel four flights due to a lack of food
Thurs: Some BA staff stop work in sympathy with sacked staff. BA cancels all flights into and out of Heathrow until at least 1800 BST on Friday, after talks with unions break down
Fri: BA extends its flight cancellations until 2000 BST. Acas announces talks are to take place between TGWU and Gate Gourmet. BA staff start returning to work

Martin George, a BA director, told BBC News the firm was doing everything in its power to get planes back in the air from 2000 BST.

BBC correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones said 31 flights would get away after 2000 BST on Friday, but only those people who had reserved tickets on those flights would be allowed on.

Nearly 100 BA aircraft and 1,000 pilots and cabin crew are still in the wrong place at sites around the world.

And there is still a huge backlog of passengers from Thursday and Friday's cancelled flights, which could mean disruption for days to come.

Two unofficial strikes lie at the heart of the travel chaos. The first, by about 600 Gate Gourmet employees over the firm's restructuring plans, led to them being dismissed.

Acas talks between Transport and General Workers' Union (TGWU) bosses and catering firm Gate Gourmet have begun.

But it is the second walk-out by BA baggage handlers and other ground staff, in sympathy with the catering workers, that caused the airline to cancel hundreds of flights on Friday.

It would usually run about 550 flights a day from Heathrow during the busy holiday season, involving 70,000 passengers. The dispute is thought to have cost BA 10m a day.

BA Chief Executive Rod Eddington said: "This is not our dispute. Our customers must come first and everyone involved in creating this chaotic situation must come to their senses."

AFFECTED AIRLINE NUMBERS
British Airways:
0800 727 800
Qantas:
0870 000 0123
Sri Lankan Airlines:
0208 538 2000
Finnair:
08705 997711
GB Airways:
0870 850 9850
British Med Airlines:
0870 850 9850

Many disgruntled BA passengers, 1,000 of whom spent the night in the airport, have blamed airport staff for poor communication and say the advice line is constantly engaged.

BA said they had extra staff on duty and were trying to answer people's calls as quickly as possible, but recommended people visit the BA website.

Qantas, Sri Lankan, Finnair, GB and British Mediterranean, also serviced by BA ground staff, were also affected.

Gate Gourmet director Richard Wells denied being heavy-handed over the sacking of staff, saying they were spoken to and given written warnings before being dismissed.

Gate Gourmet has said it will not reinstate its sacked employees, but will look at "other alternatives".

Staff at Heathrow - regarded as the world's busiest international airport - are trying to book travellers on flights with other airlines, while other services including Eurostar have reported a surge in business.

Passengers due to travel on Friday were urged not to turn up at the airport, but to contact the airline or their travel agent for more information.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Passengers react to the news of the cancellations



RELATED INTERNET LINKS:
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific