Stranded on Plane Due to Strike by Ground Staff

September 29, 2013

in Airport Stories

I’ve definitely read worse horror flying stories than mine… and mine had some up moments… but, I’ll share anyway.

Back in July of 2006, I was flying home from London on British Airways. A friend who is crew for BA was able to swing an upgrade for me to 1st class… where they had the nice seats that become a bed… Score!

When I arrived at Heathrow… I think it was Heathrow and not Gatwick, but it’s been a while so I could be mistaken… I checked in and was given a 40 pound voucher for food by the check-in agent. Apparently the folks who provide meals for the airline were on strike, so the airline was providing vouchers so passengers could buy some munchies in the airport for the flight. This was an international flight from London to Seattle, nonstop. I had some lunch, bought some nibbles for the plane, then was eventually boarded.

Within minutes of boarding and the plane’s doors being closed, we received an announcement that the ground crew had walked off the job in support of the food service worker’s strike action. We got little snippets of information over the next hour or so… with most of us thinking we would be taken off the plane… or fly on home eventually. That wasn’t happening though.

Apparently, from what I understand, per their union rules only the ground crew folks were allowed to work the skybridge… which was literally sitting probably 10-15 feet from the door of the plane. No one else was allowed to connect it to the plane, open the door and let us off!

Now, remember this is July… on a hot tarmac… in a plane with a lot of people… some who were really cranky… and only beverage service was available. Like I said, there were some up moments… as in, I could relax in the comfort of 1st class… a novelty for me… and at one point a teenage girl pulled out her violin and serenaded the passengers… really sweet. I should also commend the FAs who were all polite and funny throughout.

On the down side… what we thought might simply be a short delay turned into 9+ hours sitting on the tarmac before someone, somehow, decided it was okay to hook up the skybridge (I know it’s not called a skybridge… just can’t think of its name) and let us deplane. This was probably 9 pm or so.

THEN there was the slog through the airport through passport control… with every one of the thousands of other passengers coming in from other flights that had been cancelled. Luggage was not happening at all! We were basically given information numbers and told to go home and we’d be rebooked as soon as possible… sometime in the next few days.

Luckily I had friends in London to pick me up and with whom I could stay at no cost. I was rebooked 3 days later. I believe that in the chaos around having to rebook the thousands of people whose flight plans had been affected, the folks doing the rebookings simply looked at where you’d been sitting on the original flight and automatically tried to accommodate you the same way… because I scored a 1st class “bed” seat for the return flight… Yay!

I can see lots of positives as I was able to have a few more days in a city I love… with friends I adore… and got to fly home in style. On the negative sides, the wait that first day was long and hot… I missed work and the associated pay… and my luggage took a few weeks to find me. Although I don’t know that BA was required to compensate me, they did make what I feel was a very generous offer and deposited 50,000 BA miles into my BA frequent flyer program. All in all, I’d say it probably wasn’t a nightmare… more of an out of the ordinary travel journey. All’s well that ends well.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Gregg September 29, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Being stuck on a tarmac for 9 hours in sweltering heat sounds like a nightmare experience to me! Is it possible that your trip occurred in 2005 instead of 2006? I've read a number of news articles about a strike at Heathrow in 2005 involving BA ground staff supporting food service workers just as you described; here's one such piece: After Strike at Heathrow, Chaos and Fatigue. The strike created major disruptions, stranding more than 100,000 passengers worldwide. Thanks for sharing your experience; glad that at least there were some upsides for you!


Anthony October 7, 2013 at 10:54 am

I agree. 20 minutes on a hot tarmac is a nightmare. 9 hours would be hell on earth. I'd go bat shit.


Deb September 30, 2013 at 12:00 am

Must have been. I couldn't remember for certain…thought 2006. Visited the UK frequently for about 3 years. Again, could have been worse. Probably the worst thing was seeing the sky bridge thingy so close…yet so far. Glad to share.


BELLA November 1, 2013 at 11:19 pm

It must of been a tough one


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