British Airways (BA) is working on a number of contingency plans so it can avoid a repeat of last summer’s Heathrow crisis, when wildcat strikes by staff at in-flight caterer Gate Gourmet grounded 700 flights.
One of the plans proposed by the airline is to train its own staff to use the caterer’s loading trucks. If Gate Gourmet staff were to walk out again in unofficial strikes, this back-up plan would ensure BA could load its jets with food and supplies, a company spokeswoman said.
“Gate Gourmet prepares our food but, just as importantly, it offers important logistical support, including loading cutlery, first-aid kits and toilet paper,” she said.
“Because we can’t use its equipment and don’t have staff trained to operate it, we ended up in [that] position last summer.”
The biggest problem on August 10 last year was not actually a lack of food, but the fact that there was no way of loading meals onto BA aircraft, added the spokeswoman.
Gate Gourmet’s vice-president Richard Wells has not ruled out the prospect of staff walkouts this summer.
“There is no reason it should happen again this summer because of the changes we’ve since made, but you can never say never,” he said.