Flights Resume But Some Still Fume

Passengers wait with their luggage in Terminal 4 at Heathrow Airport, London, Friday Aug. 12,2005. At least 70,000 travelers were left stranded Friday as British Airways canceled all flights to and from Heathrow Airport after catering staff, baggage handlers and other ground crew walked off the job in wildcat strikes at the height of the summer tourism season. AP

British Airways resumed hundreds of flights Saturday at one of the world's busiest airports, while pleading for continued patience from thousands of passengers stranded by a ground-crew walkout.

The airline said 420 out of its 500 scheduled flights were taking off from London's Heathrow airport — 85 percent of its short-haul flights and 80 percent of its long-hauls.

But with tens of thousands of passengers still backed up by a daylong strike that ended Friday, the airline said service would not reach normal levels for several more days.

CBS News Correspondent Mark Phillips reports that 110,000 passengers were stranded, 30,000 bags sorted out and 4,000 hotel rooms booked. The airline lost an estimated $72 million.

Phillips reports that the British Airways ordeal underscores a broader industry problem.

"This whole dispute is really about the economic squeeze in the airline business, about whether name carriers can continue to provide services and, if so, at what cost," Phillips said.

The strike was triggered by a dispute between catering staff and the U.S.-owned firm Gate Gourmet, which provides onboard meals for British Airways.

"Like all the people here I am not pleased, but I am accepting the situation," said Latific Vanja, a Norwegian who was stranded in London with his wife and two young children after flying in Friday from Los Angeles.

"There's been a lot of confusion, but I am happier now that I know I will be going home tomorrow," said Vanja, who was told his flight home to Oslo would leave Sunday.

In huge tents put up outside terminals, passengers were given free coffee and tea and newspapers to read. Chicken sandwiches, apples and carrot sticks were also provided, and entertainers were brought in to amuse the waiting children.

"Our priority is still to get passengers as quickly as possible to their destination," BA spokeswoman Pam Simpson said. "But absolutely we are still asking for patience, and customers are being very understanding."

  • Stephen Smith

    Stephen Smith is a senior editor for CBSNews.com

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