UK airport staff strike threatens Christmas chaos for people flying to Ireland
People flying to Ireland from the UK for Christmas could face travel misery as 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew in British airports are set to stage a 48-hour strike next Wednesday and Thursday.
Workers with services firm Swissport have voted to walk out at 18 UK airports in a dispute over pay.
It could cause havoc for travellers racing to make it over for the festive season.
Thousands of people are likely to travel to Ireland this weekend from all over the world, but next week is likely to see a continuing surge in the number of people coming home or visiting loved ones.
Swissport check-in staff and baggage handlers at airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Birmingham, Luton, Stansted, Edinburgh and Manchester will not be turning up for work if the stoppage goes ahead.
Ryanair, Aer Lingus and British Airways have extensive flight schedules from many of those airports.
Ryanair uses Swissport in the UK. "All of our flights to and from the UK are scheduled to operate as normal," said a spokesman for the airline.
"Should this action proceed, our flights may operate with hand luggage only and we will update customers accordingly."
The mainline operations of Aer Lingus, part of the IAG Group that includes British Airways, use a rival ground services group Menzies for its operations at Heathrow and most other UK airports, except Birmingham.
A spokesman said that the airline does not currently anticipate any disruption to its schedule as a result of Swissport's planned action next week.
He added that, should the situation change, passengers will be kept up to date via email, texts and social media.
Talks are continuing over the weekend to try to avert the strike and reach a deal with Swissport staff.
"We appreciate that this is a very busy time of year at the UK's airports and that's why we are calling for the company to engage in constructive talks… to resolve this dispute," said Oliver Richardson, a national officer for civil air transport at trade union Unite.
More than 62pc of Unite members balloted for action rejected a 4.65pc, three-year pay deal.
The union argued that the increase would barely match inflation.
The planned strike comes after Unite said this week that some British Airways cabin crew could also strike as early as next week. More than 2,500 staff members who crew long and short-haul flights with the airline have rejected a 2pc pay offer from the carrier.
The action would be taken only by the company's so-called mixed-fleet crew, which operates out of Heathrow in London.
The ballot did not include British Airways' cabin crew at other locations.
None of the destinations operated by the mixed-fleet crew at Heathrow include routes to Ireland.