Air passengers told to expect serious disruption
Air passengers face “undeniable, serious disruption” at UK airports over Christmas due to planned strikes by border staff, the Home Secretary warns.
Suella Braverman said people should “think carefully” about their plans as “they may well be impacted”. Staff at six airports will stage walkouts from 23 December to Boxing Day and from 28 December to New Year’s Eve.
The strikes come at one of the busiest times for travel and coincide with walkouts by train and rail workers.
It is the first Christmas since 2019 that airlines have been able to operate without widespread Covid restrictions.
Around 1,000 Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union members – including people who work in passport control – are taking industrial action after the Home Office offered workers a 2% pay rise instead of the 10% they requested.
On Thursday, Ms Braverman said: “If they go ahead with those strikes there will be undeniable, serious disruption caused to many thousands of people who have holiday plans.
“I really want to urge people who have got plans to travel abroad to think carefully about their plans because they may well be impacted.”
She added: “It’s very regrettable that they have made this decision to potentially strike over critical times in the run-up and following Christmas and the New Year.”
But Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS, said: “The government can stop these strikes tomorrow if it puts money on the table.
“Like so many workers, our members are struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. They are desperate.”
Strikes by Border Force staff are planned to take place at Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow airports.
The government says it will draft in military personnel to help minimise disruption if the walkouts go ahead.
But travel expert Simon Calder said: “That doesn’t make up for the decades of expertise and experience that Border Force staff have so you’re going to see queues building up.
“Once that happens you could get passengers kept on planes to avoid too many queues in the arrivals hall. When that happens the planes aren’t going out again full of other passengers, delays build up and that’s when you get diversions and cancellations starting up.”
It is expected that if there is disruption, it will mainly affect passengers flying into the UK.
A report in The Times said that airlines had been advised to cancel up to 30% of flights over the eight days of strikes to prevent disruption at airports.
A spokesman for Airlines UK, which represents the industry, said: “We urge all parties to work on reaching an agreement to avoid the need for industrial action at what is such an important time of year for many travellers.”
One source within the aviation industry told the BBC that a letter from the Border Force to airports last week said that based on initial modelling, it would be possible to operate about 80% of 2019 flight levels during strike action.
However, it is understood that some airlines had already expected to run about that level of capacity because they were not back to pre-Covid levels yet.
Jet2 said: “We would like to let our customers and industry partners know that we very much intend to operate our full schedule of flights throughout the festive period, including on the dates when strike action is taking place.
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