Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

The deserted airport

BA claims most flights still took off during the cabin crew strike. But our reporter at Heathrow isn't buying it

March 30, 2010
3 min read

It was rush hour on Tuesday morning, but the four staff at Heathrow terminal five tube station ticket office had nothing to do.

Only one would-be passenger was using any of the three ticket machines.

A tube worker said: “It’s been like this for the past three days.

“We were just saying among ourselves – ‘how can they say the strike is having no effect?’

“There is usually a queue.”

Transport for London weren’t the only ones feeling the pinch on the fourth day of the second strike this month by BA cabin crew – members of the Unite union battling to defend their working conditions.

In the arrivals area of terminal five, which only handles BA flights, there was only one shopper being served in Marks and Spencer – and none in WHSmith.

There were no queues and ten free tables at Costa Coffee.

Upstairs, in the departure area, none of the baggage drop off points had a queue of more than three people – except one in the more expensive club class section, which had six.

In the departures area – before passengers go through security – there were no customers in one branch of WHSmith and just two in the other.

There was no-one in Accessorize, no-one in the Vodafone shop, and three staff with one browsing customer in Boots.

A shopkeeper who had some browsers but no buyers said: “We are quiet because of the strike. Usually it is much busier.”

According to the big airport information signs, all flights were scheduled to leave. But there was no queue at the security scanners.

One lost passenger said her BA flight to Manchester had been cancelled and she had been told to take a BMI plane from another terminal.

A last check of the arrivals area shops showed there were still no customers in Smiths. Marks and Spencer didn’t even have anyone on the tills.

The tube train out of terminal five of the self-proclaimed “world’s busiest airport” had no passengers in the first carriage, two in the second, and one in the third.

At terminal three BA operates flights to a small number of destinations including Bangkok and Madrid. The BA bag drop-off points had seven staff and no customers. Ten minutes later they had six staff and three customers.

Meanwhile – also in terminal three – Virgin had nine baggage drop-off points open with queues of between eight and 23 people at each one.

Whatever BA says, this was clearly nothing like a normal day.

Outside the airport, near Hatton Cross tube station, striking cabin crew workers and their supporters danced and sang along as “I Will Survive” belted out of their ghetto-blaster.

Passing drivers tooted their support, and strikers waved placards and blew whistles in response.

After seven days on strike, spirits were still high.

More stoppages will almost certainly be needed to defeat BA’s macho boss Willie Walsh – maybe even an all-out strike.

BA cabin crew can be reassured that if that happens the rest of the labour movement will raise money to support and sustain them.

If they successfully defend their hard-won terms and conditions, it will give confidence to all workers facing attacks from bosses who are using the recession as an excuse to put the squeeze on.

Text messages of support can be sent to 07850 905787, or emailed, with requests for speakers or more information, to office@bassa.co.uk

BA strikers demonstrating at Manchester airport can be contacted c/o clareowens at btinternet.com

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Brexit, Corbyn and beyond
Clarity of analysis can help the left avoid practical traps, argues Paul O'Connell

Paul Mason vs Progress: ‘Decide whether you want to be part of this party’ – full report
Broadcaster and Corbyn supporter Paul Mason tells the Blairites' annual conference some home truths

Contagion: how the crisis spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe

How empire struck back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency

Empire en vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy

Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network

Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker

In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing

After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry

Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again

Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood

7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.

After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani

If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945

On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.

Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow

The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite

Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.

Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports

On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.

Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns

Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below

The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections

In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines

Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes

Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.

Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.

West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective

How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences