Holiday flights could be disrupted by more industrial action as 1,500 baggage handlers, check-in staff and cargo crew working at 18 airports across the UK are set to strike over the Christmas weekend.

Members of the Unite union employed by Swissport, who work on behalf of airlines at airports including Stansted, Luton, Gatwick, Leeds-Bradford, Manchester, Cardiff, Belfast, Glasgow and Edinburgh, intend to walk out for 48 hours on 23 and 24 December. Cargo workers at Heathrow could also take action.

Birmingham, Southampton and Newcastle airports, whose check-in and baggage handling are entirely operated by Swissport, could be among the worst affected.

Talks to avert the strike could still take place, as Unite called on Swissport’s management to go to negotiations at Acas to stave off the Christmas travel disruption.

Unite members voted by 62.5% to reject a three-year pay deal. The unionsaid the offered barely keeps pace with inflation, while eroding terms and conditions, including freezing overtime payments.

Oliver Richardson, Unite’s national officer for civil air transport, said members were taking action as a last resort. He said: “We appreciate that this is a very busy time of year at the UK’s airports and that’s why we are calling for the company to engage […]