Air Traffic Control Dispute

Image: Brian Gray

Latest updates

Following a productive meeting with Prospect on Tuesday 9 April, Prospect have agreed to suspend the strike action on 26 April 2019 to allow further discussions.  The current ‘work to rule’ will continue. 

Update on Air Traffic Control Industrial Action – 09.04.19

Update for Kirkwall Airport – 04.04.19

Update on Air Traffic Control Industrial Action – 03.04.19

Update on Air Traffic Control Industrial Action – 22.03.19

Update on Air Traffic Control Industrial Action – 15.03.19

Update on Air Traffic Control Industrial Action – 08.03.19

Update – Air Traffic Control Industrial Action – 05.03.19

Outcome of Air Traffic Control ballot for industrial action – 01.03.19

Air Traffic Control – Possible industrial action – 04.02.19

Frequently Asked Questions 

HIAL continue to engage with Prospect Union in a bid to resolve the Air Traffic Control Officers’ pay dispute.  We have received a number of questions on the impact of the industrial action and have prepared information in the form of FAQs to help you plan for any potential disruption to travel.

Download all FAQs as a printable PDF

Q: Why are Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) taking industrial action?

A: Prospect Union balloted ATCOs to undertake industrial action to support their claim for a double-digit wage increase in 2018/19 or a long-term commitment to above inflation pay awards.

Prospect have expressed the view that ATCOs in the Highlands and Islands and Dundee should have parity with ATCOs at London airports.


Q: What are HIAL doing to avoid industrial action?

A: As a government sponsored agency, HIAL must follow the Scottish Government pay policy. Last year HIAL awarded up to three per cent which was awarded to all HIAL staff.  HIAL cannot implement pay awards more than that directed by government policy.

Recently, HIAL and Prospect jointly undertook analysis of air traffic controller pay at non-HIAL airports.  The evidence did not support a double-digit wage award.


Q: What form will the industrial action take?

A: Prospect have confirmed that industrial action will consist of:

  • A work to rule, implemented from 1 April to 31 August 2019

Prospect has notified a work to rule includes: instruction to ‘work to rosters’, ‘refusal of non-medical extensions’, ‘an overtime ban’ and ‘withdrawal of goodwill’.

The following airports will be involved in the industrial action: Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh and Wick John O’Groats.

Following a productive meeting with Prospect on Tuesday 9 April, Prospect have agreed to suspend the strike action on 26 April 2019 to allow further discussions.


Q: What is the impact of working to rosters?

A: During the work to rule, ATCOs will work to their normal rosters. These rosters are designed to accommodate all scheduled flights in and out of our airports during airport opening times.

During normal operations, airports within the HIAL group will routinely work overtime and extend rosters to accommodate scheduled flights that are delayed.

There will be potential disruption for any scheduled aircraft that is delayed beyond airport opening times.

During the period of action, you should check with your airline for updates.

Opening hours for airports are published under the relevant airport information pages on this website: Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh and Wick John O’Groats.


Q: What is a ’non-medical extension’?

A: A ‘non-medical extension’ is a request to open the airport beyond normal published operating times for anything other than a medical emergency.


Q: What will happen in the event of a medical emergency?

A: For medical emergencies outside of airport opening times, airports within the HIAL group operate well-established local on-call medical emergency processes and this will continue.

Prospect have confirmed that where medical or other emergencies arise during the period of work to rule or a scheduled day of action, cover for these will be provided throughout.


Q: If a further strike day is scheduled, will the strike action have an impact on travel for medical appointments?

A: In the event that strike action cannot be avoided, affected airports will close to air traffic for the period of the strike.  Therefore we are advising people who have a medical appointment scheduled that requires travel on a scheduled strike day, to contact their GP, hospital or clinic to discuss appointment arrangements.


Q: The Union has indicated there will be an ‘overtime ban’. What does that mean?

A: Normally, where staff are required to work beyond their roster they work overtime, for example, to cover staff absence and extension to opening times. During the period of action, ATCOs will not work any overtime.

Where there are unforeseen staff absences during normal opening hours, this may lead to airport closures.

We will monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and ensure updates are provided to all who may be impacted.


Q: What will be the impact of ‘withdrawal of goodwill’?

A: Prospect have advised that the withdrawal of goodwill relates to internal administration and business support which we anticipate will have minimum impact on our passengers in the short term.


Q: Will airports be open on any planned strike days?

A: In the event that strike action cannot be avoided, the following airports will close to air traffic for the period of the strike, unless local arrangements are available:

Benbecula, Dundee, Inverness, Kirkwall, Stornoway, Sumburgh and Wick John O’Groats.

Prospect have confirmed that where medical and other emergencies arise on the day of any strike action that air traffic control will provide cover.

Prospect will confirm the exact detail of how the cover will operate and HIAL will be in a position to enact appropriate procedures for emergency situations should they arise on the day.

We are advising passengers due to travel on any scheduled strike day to contact their airline provider.


Q: What are my rights with regard to compensation claims in the event of the industrial action?

A: Passengers should contact their airline and travel insurance company in relation to compensation and claim for costs.

Passenger rights are covered within European Union legislation under EU Regulation 261/2004 and are available on the Civil Aviation Authority website at https://www.caa.co.uk/Passengers/Resolving-travel-problems/Delays-cancellations/Your-rights/Your-rights-when-you-fly/