Around 1,400 security guards at Heathrow who are members of Unite will strike for 10 days which will extend into the Easter weekend.
On Thursday evening last ditch talks broke down and by mid-morning a total of 42 flights to and from the airport were cancelled on Friday.
The airport’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye told Sky News: “I’m here in Terminal Five which is the only terminal that voted for strike action and you’ll see it’s operating as normal.
“We have a lot of colleagues who have come to help us out today – both security officers and managers who are helping out in their purple shirts like me.
“But we also have some other agency, third party, workers who have come in to help us who are very experienced in this kind of security environment, and they’re keeping the airport running smoothly.
“So, Heathrow is operating as normal. If you’re travelling over the Easter period, don’t worry, you’ll have a good journey.
“Please don’t come too early. Three hours is plenty for a long-haul flight, two hours for a short-haul flight, and we will get you to your destination on time.”
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “Heathrow can afford to pay a decent pay rise to its workers.
“This is a wealthy company which is about to return to bumper profits. In recent years it’s approved an astronomical rise in salary for its chief executive and paid out dividends to shareholders worth billions.
“Yet somehow, Heathrow executives seem to think it’s acceptable to offer what amounts to a real-terms pay cut to its security guards and ground staff who are already on poverty pay.
“Unite has a laser-like focus on our members’ jobs, pay and conditions. The workforce at Heathrow Airport will receive the union’s unswerving support in this fight for a decent deal.”
Unite regional co-ordinating officer Wayne King said: “Heathrow Airport has thrown away the opportunity to avoid strikes.
“The strike action will undoubtedly result in severe delays and disruption to passengers across the airport but this dispute is a direct result of Heathrow Airport’s stubborn refusal to pay its workers fairly.”