Thousands of British holidaymakers face the prospect of travel chaos following an overwhelming vote for strike action by workers at BAA airports, including Heathrow.
A ballot over pay involving 6,000 staff belonging to the Unite union resulted in a three to one vote in favour of strike action, the union said.
Unite will meet with its key representatives on Monday to decide what form of industrial action its members will take.
Any action will affect not only Heathrow but also Stansted, Southampton, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh airports.
Before the ballot result was announced, British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that a strike would achieve nothing “apart from damage”.
But Unite national officer Brendan Gold said: “This ballot reflects what our members feel about BAA’s current attitude.”
The union had urged firefighters, engineers and support and security staff at BAA’s six UK airports to vote for industrial action over what it called the Spanish-owned company’s “measly” pay offer.
The union said staff had already accepted a pay freeze in 2009 and that this year the company had offered staff a 1% rise, plus 0.5% which was conditional on changes to a sickness agreement.
Unite also wants workers to receive a performance-related bonus which it said was promised to them if the company hit a certain financial target.
BAA said it made a “reasonable” offer at a time when “BAA and its airline customers are seeing a decline in passengers due to the impacts of recession and volcanic ash”.
Mr Cameron, who made a speech today about the importance of tourism to the UK, said: “These sorts of strikes never achieve anything apart from damage – damage to business, damage to jobs, damage to the interests of tourists who want to come to visit Britain, or people who want to leave Britain and have a holiday overseas.
“I very much hope that they don’t go ahead. They will do nothing but harm. We want to demonstrate that Britain is open for business.”
If the strike does go ahead it will mean more misery this year for air travellers who have already had to cope with a long-running dispute by British Airways workers and widespread disruption caused by the volcanic ash clouds.
The Prospect union, which represents around 100 BAA workers based at Heathrow, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Southampton and Stansted airports, said 53% of its members had also voted in favour of strike action.