Managing director of Heathrow Airport Mick Temple has said days of delays face passengers at the airport after British Airways cancelled all its flights because of an unofficial walkout by baggage handlers.
Mr Temple said there would be “significant disruption today and probably for several days to come” for BA passengers.
Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme, he added that, if things remained as they were, those travelling on other airlines should not encounter difficulties but advised them to check for information before coming to the airport.
“I would strongly advise everybody to just check because I could be saying something now which is clearly wrong in a very short period of time because of the situation we’re talking about,” he said.
BA said 100 of its aircraft and 1,000 pilots and cabin crew were stranded because of the wildcat action.
Several hundred baggage handlers, loaders, cargo staff and other workers at Heathrow staged a lightning strike in support of 800 employees of a firm which supplies catering for BA who were sacked in a row over working practices.
The Transport & General Workers Union accused US firm Gate Gourmet of acting in a “disgraceful” fashion and called on BA to exert pressure on the firm to resolve the dispute.
Talks were held last night, but failed to break the deadlock after Gate Gourmet insisted that the sacked workers would not be reinstated.
BA cancelled its UK, European and long-haul flights out of and into Heathrow from yesterday afternoon and said no flights would operate until at least 6pm today.
The airline said that due to the uncertainty of the industrial situation at Heathrow, as well as aircraft and flying crew being out of position it had decided to cancel flights.
Meanwhile, members of the GMB Union revealed they had been subjected to abuse by passengers at Heathrow because of the chaos caused by the strike.
The union’s regional secretary Ed Blissett said it “was unacceptable” that workers should be subjected to abuse when they were not involved in the dispute.
The union asked BA to remove GMB members from Heathrow terminals for their own safety.
Thousands of people stayed in hotels near Heathrow last night because their flights had been cancelled.
BA operates around 550 flights a day at Heathrow at this time of year, traditionally one of the busiest weeks for the airline industry.
The dispute also spread to a number of other airlines including Finnair, Sri Lankan Airways and Qantas.