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BA Workers Return; Heathrow Operations Normal

British Airways (BA) officials could not gauge the full impact on cargo movement through London’s Heathrow Airport of a walk out staged by an estimated 1,000 BA ground workers. The job action, in sympathy with over 600 workers who had been fired by Gate Gourmet on August 10th, halted all BA flights, including freighters. (Gate Gourmet is owned by U.S.-based Texas Pacific Group.)

British Airways is the world’s eight largest airline, based on fiscal 2004 operating revenues and the 13th largest cargo carrier, according to Air Transport World. It’s main base, London Heathrow, is Europe’s largest airport.

Just two months before the walk out temporarily crippled BA’s Heathrow cargo operations, the cargo unit announced it would invest £15 million ($27 million) in a dedicated 77,000 square foot facility that will be built adjacent to its current World Cargo Centre. The new construction will double current cargo capacity. Other cargo announcements earlier in the year included the first direct freighter service from the UK to Shanghai and a new service offering, Constant Fresh. BA World Cargo Managing Director Gareth Kirkwood said Constant Fresh represents a £1 million ($1.8 million) investment in its perishables business.

In its fiscal 2004 financial report, BA World Cargo said flown revenues were £482.1 million ($874 million), up 4.1% over the prior year. Volumes rose 11.1% to 4,954 million tonne kilometers. However, though volumes were up, yield fell 6.2%. When the effects of exchange rates are removed, yield was nearly flat, showing only 0.2% drop.

BA officials did not speculate on future disruptions. Its ground workers (baggage handlers and ramp workers) are members of the Transport and General Workers Union, the same organization representing the Gate Gourmet employees. The Gate Gourmet employees were fired after staging a strike, according to news accounts. The BA workers’ response was termed a “secondary strike” which is illegal in the UK.

See related story: Ground Services Walk Out Halts BA Cargo

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