Passengers brace for Christmas airports chaos as Border Force strike set to begin
Passengers are being warned to prepare for the holiday travel chaos on Friday, when a Border Force strike begins.
Around 1,000 members of the PCS union manning passport desks will be out and disrupting major airports such as Gatwick and Heathrow.
The action is expected to cause delays for around 250,000 arriving passengers during the busiest Christmas season for airports since 2019.
Heathrow – the UK’s busiest airport, which is expected to receive around 579 flights on Friday – could be the hardest hit.
Around 10,000 passengers are due to arrive before 7am alone, with the first flight – a British Airways service from Cape Town – due to land at 4.45am.
Birmingham, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester airports and the port of Newhaven are also affected. Pickets are being set up outside.
Delays in verifying the passports of arriving passengers could lead to long queues and even people being detained on planes, delaying departure.
Border Force operations chief Steve Dann previously acknowledged that military personnel and public service volunteers will not be enough to contain the disruption.
He said that while “robust plans” are in place, “emergency workers will not be able to work with the same efficiency as our permanent workforce.”
Electronic passport gates remain open, but cannot be used by all passengers, e.g. B. children under 12 years of age.
Industrial action by National Highways workers will continue Friday, while strikes will bring the country’s rail network to a complete standstill on Christmas Eve.
Border Force strikes will continue from December 23 through New Year’s Eve, with the exception of December 27.
It is estimated that around two million passengers will be booked to fly to the affected airports during the strikes.
It comes amid a longstanding dispute with the Home Office over salaries, pensions and working conditions.
PCS Secretary General Mark Serwotka called on people affected by disruptions to direct their anger at the government.
“The government could end these strikes tomorrow if they put more money on the table,” he said. “Like so many workers, Border Force employees are grappling with the cost of living crisis. You are desperate.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “It is the uncertainty that is worrying passengers as they have no idea how the strikes will affect their arrival experience.
“Many are likely to face longer queues and delays during this festive period and some could get stuck on incoming planes before they are allowed into the terminals.
“Let’s hope that the border officials can process all passengers smoothly and without worries.”