British Airways Heathrow flights returning to normal; Gate Gourmet in question

LONDON (XFNews) - British Airways PLC's flight schedule had almost returned to normal at London's Heathrow airport on Sunday, following wildcat strike action last week that caused hundreds of flight cancellations and left thousands of people stranded.

A spokesperson for the airline said 95 pct of flights were operating, and a normal schedule should return in the next few days.

The illegal action by 1,000 members of the Transport and General Workers Union, who walked out in support of 600 Gate Gourmet employees who were fired on Wednesday, has left the future of BA's sole catering supplier in question.

Already facing millions of pounds of losses, the company, owned by US private equity group Texas Pacific Group, may now lose its contract with the airline, reports suggested.

The Sunday Telegraph said BA will ditch Gate Gourmet when the 130 mln stg annual contract runs out next year.

The BA spokesperson said a decision will be taken "at an appropriate time."

The action also led to a bitter exchange between BA and Gate Gourmet, as the two companies sought to blame each other.

Chairman of Gate Gourmet David Siegel said the situation arose due to BA's inability to deal with its own workforce, while BA ceo Rod Eddington said "it's nothing to do with us".

Elsewhere the Observer reported the airline is planning to cut 15 pct of its baggage handling staff as part of consolidation plans ahead of the move to the new terminal five building at Heathrow.

The spokesperson declined to confirm the report and said as part of the move they are examining future operations, but they currently do not know how many people will be required to run the new site.
BA is still looking to cut 300 mln stg from staff costs by 2007, but is not thought to be considering compulsory redundancies.

The Business newspaper cited senior company sources as saying the airline will use the move as a way to stamp out the "militant elements" which led to the wildcat strike and usher in more modern working practises.

Meanwhile the Sunday Times said the airline is investigating a meeting that according to its sources took place between BA's T&G representatives and their Gate Gourmet counterparts at the union's office on

Thursday morning. Two hours later BA staff walked out.

The strike was illegal under current employment laws and if BA could prove the union helped orchestrate the action, it could sue.

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