It wasn't meant to be like this. For the third consecutive summer, holidaymakers were left stranded as British Airways (BA) workers walked out yet again - this time in support of workers on a wildcat strike at troubled in-flight caterer Gate Gourmet.
The fiasco that engulfed one of the world's biggest airlines earlier this month threw 70,000 holidays and business trips into turmoil. But HR experts have said that important lessons can be learned from the way the situation was handled by all sides.
Taming the wildcat
Companies must ensure they know their workforce and keep employees engaged if they are to avoid falling victim to a wildcat strike, said Simon Barrow, chairman of employment brand consultancy People in Business.
That was not the case at Gate Gourmet - a firm owned by US venture capitalists Texas Pacific.
Faced with potentially crippling losses, it was desperate to cut costs, slash wage bills and reform what it claimed were outdated working practices.
But US-owned companies operating in the UK ignore the nuances of the British employment market at their peril. And the already low-paid, yet close-knit community of airport workers at Heathrow was a tinderbox waiting to ignite.
BA outsourced its catering operation to Gate Gourmet in 1997, and many BA employees knew the Gate Gourmet staff. Some were even related, so it was only natural for BA baggage handlers to support family members by joining the unofficial action.
"When you are fishing in the same labour pool - especially in a close-knit community where there is a history of employee unrest - you have to be aware of the risks and deal with things properly," Barrow said. "It's not just best practice - it's common sense."
Companies usually outsource peripheral aspects of their business so they can cut costs and concentrate on core activities. But by outsourcing its in-flight catering operation to one company using local employees, BA left itself vulnerable.
Martyn Hart, chairman of the National Outsourcing Association, said: "Companies should always take a business risk approach to outsourcing and must have a strategy in place to deal with any disaster."
Putting all of its in-flight eggs in the Gate Gourmet basket was a perilous move for BA. There was no back-up plan to provide hot food should the arrangement turn sour, and passengers were left to face long-haul flight