British Airways to Resume Serving Hot Food on Flights Hit By Catering Dispute

LONDON (AP) -- British Airways said Friday it would resume serving hot meals on long-haul flights that were affected by a catering dispute that triggered worker strikes, leading to thousands of stranded passengers.

Long-haul flights departing from London's Heathrow Airport will serve hot food starting Monday, and flights arriving at Heathrow Airport will serve hot meals again starting Wednesday, the airline said.

Passengers on short-haul flights will continue to receive food vouchers for use at the airport.

''While this is a far cry from our usual service levels, it is a welcome move for our long-haul customers,'' said Mike Street, BA's Director of Customer Service and Operations.

Street said BA was in talks with catering company Gate Gourmet to improve the service it is providing. An airline spokeswoman said the meals on offer were simpler than the usual fare available to passengers.

BA passengers into and out of Heathrow have not had hot inflight meals since last week when a dispute involving Gate Gourmet intensified. Ticket-holders were offered food vouchers and refreshment stations were set up in airports, as passengers were encouraged to eat before their flights. BA served cold meals only on long-haul flights and only water on short-haul flights.

Around 1,000 BA staff stopped work last week to support about 660 fellow union members at Gate Gourmet who were fired after staging an unofficial strike about working conditions.

More than 100,000 passengers were stranded by the strike, and BA began an investigation into whether workers were bullied into joining the strike.

BA staff returned to work on Aug. 12, ending their one-day walkout. Negotiations between Gate Gourmet, which is owned by U.S. company Texas Pacific Group, and the Transport and General Workers Union to resolve the dispute broke down earlier this week when the caterer refused to reinstate staff it dismissed.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press