By Humphrey Carter

BRITISH holidaymakers bound for the Balearics and other European hotspots breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when airport staff at Gatwick, Stansted and Manchester called off two 24-hour strikes planned to take place next week.

Some two million British people are set to escape one of the wettest Augusts in years by going on holiday this weekend, according to the Association of British Travel Agents and the strikes would have caused major disruptions.

The association predicts that today and tomorrow will be the busiest days, with nearly one million people set to depart on their holidays from the south-east alone.

Heathrow Airport will once again be the busiest gateway, with more than 420'000 departures, followed by Gatwick Airport (260'000), Stansted Airport (160'000) and Luton Airport (80'000).

Manchester Airport will be the leading regional gateway, with 160'000 passengers, while the Scottish bases of Edinburgh Airport, Glasgow Airport and Aberdeen Airport will handle a joint total of 140'000 travellers.

Abta president Justin Fleming said: “The August bank holiday is our traditional goodbye to the summer and is always very busy. This year is no exception with large numbers escaping to guaranteed sunshine, sandy beaches and warm seas.” The summer favourites of the Balearics, mainland Spain and Greece are set to be as popular as ever.
Walkouts at Gatwick and Stansted on bank holiday Monday and 29 August were halted after talks between the GMB and Unite unions and employers Swissport.

Strikes at Manchester on 27 August and 1 September have also been called off. A separate GMB strike involving more than 30 security scanners at Stansted is still due to take place on Monday, however.

The staff, who work for Airfield Services screening baggage for Ryanair and easyJet, have rejected a 1.5% pay offer.
Union members were unhappy with a 3% pay offer from Swissport which they branded “paltry”, as well as new sick pay arrangements.
Gary Pearce, of the GMB, said “we have a new improved offer to put to our members” as a result of talks at conciliation service Acas.
He said: “Because of the improved offer all planned industrial action is suspended until we get the reaction of the members. “This does not affect the industrial action for the scanner workers who are employed by Airport Services.” The strikes would have affected services at airlines including Virgin Atlantic, Monarch, Thomson Fly and First Choice during one of the busiest periods of the year.

A spokesman for Unite said: “We have suspended the industrial action. After 12 hours of talks at Acas we now have a revised offer in which improvements have been made and we will now ballot our members.”


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