70,000 Stranded at London's Heathrow Airport Over Labor Spat

British Airways canceled flights to and from Heathrow after catering staff, baggage handlers and other ground crew walked off the job in strikes.

''I'm too polite a lady to say what I think of British Airways,'' said Daphne Morley, a resident of Melbourne, Australia, attempting to fly to St. Petersburg, Russia. ''Our luggage is somewhere in Neverland. There's no chance of change of clothing or anything.''

Gate Gourmet, which is owned by the Fort Worth, Texas, buyout firm Texas Pacific Group, reported a loss of $41.25 million last financial year, and was expecting a $44.84 million loss for the current year.

This is the third consecutive year that BA has suffered a disruption at the height of the summer holiday season. Last August, thousands of disgruntled vacationers were stranded at Heathrow after the airline canceled scores of flights because of staff shortages and technical hitches.

In July 2003, an unofficial walkout by several hundred check-in staff disrupted thousands of passengers and cost BA tens of millions of dollars.

In its last financial year, which ended in March, British Airways PLC earned 251 million pounds ($467.31 million), up from 130 million pounds in the previous year. Full-year revenue rose 3.3 percent to 7.8 billion pounds ($14.49 billion).

U.S. shares of the airline fell 43 cents to $52.40 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

Copyright 2005 Associated Press

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