Travellers urged to rethink travel plans with '30% of flights set to be axed' amid Christmas strikes

8 December 2022, 12:47 | Updated: 8 December 2022, 13:07

Passengers have been urged to rethink Christmas travel plans
Passengers have been urged to rethink Christmas travel plans. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

Home Secretary Suella Braverman has urged people planning to fly over Christmas to rethink their plans because of the "undeniable, serious disruption" caused by striking airport workers.

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Border Force workers are set to walk out on eight dates from December 23 to 31 over a pay dispute, with reports that 30% of flights could be axed.

Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester airports are set to be impacted by the strikes by PCS union members. Birmingham and Glasgow airports will also be affected.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman said on Thursday that the strikes were likely to have an "adverse effect" on passengers, but that she was "not willing to compromise on security".

She told broadcasters: "If they go ahead with those strikes there will be undeniable, serious disruption caused to many thousands of people who have holiday plans.

James O'Brien dismantles Rishi Sunak attempt to portray striking key workers as your enemy

"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."

Ms Braverman 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.

"We've got plans in place that will involve, to a degree, bringing in some of our military colleagues to help us in a variety of roles.

"Ultimately I'm not willing to compromise on security at the border, that's the number one priority.

Up to 30% of flights could be cut
Up to 30% of flights could be cut. Picture: Getty

"That may well have an adverse impact on convenience for people, frankly, whether it's the time they have to wait for flights, or departures, they may well be delayed on arrivals and various travel plans. Ultimately security at the border is my number one non-negotiable priority."

The Border Force strike dates are from 23-26 December and from the 28-31 December.

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."

Airlines may have to cancel 30% of flights amid the chaos, the Times reported on Thursday. But some in the industry said they were working to keep all flights operating as normal.

Airline 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."

Heathrow Airport said its "priority is to ensure passengers get through the border safely and as quickly as possible".

It added: "We are working closely with airlines and Border Force on mitigation plans for potential strike action by Border Force officers and these plans will now be implemented for the notified days."

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A spokesperson for Gatwick said: "We are disappointed that Border Force staff have decided to take strike action at this particular time.

"We expect that flights will operate as normal and remain in regular contact with Border Force about their mitigation plans. Additional airport staff will also be made available to help with passenger welfare on strike days."

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."

The government said they would draft in soldiers to replace workers at the airport because of the strike.

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.

He told the BBC: "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."

Simon Calder and Andrew Marr discuss border force strikes

It comes as union boss Mick Lynch accused the government of pushing for railway strikes to go ahead this Christmas by "sabotaging" negotiations.

Mr Lynch, general secretary of the RMT union, which is organising several days of industrial action in December and January, said the government had told train companies to "prepare for the strike".

He told Sky News that the railway operators had put together another pay offer that RMT was planning to consider.

"But at the last moment, including last night around about six o'clock, the government decided that they would not allow the railway companies to make that offer and instead instructed them to prepare for the strike.

Mick Lynch speaking at a march protesting against payments
Mick Lynch speaking at a march protesting against payments. Picture: Getty

“He’s going to try and make the RMT and the other trade unions as bogeymen.

“They want this strike action to go ahead when there are solutions and possible solutions that railway management and railway executives could put to us to try and get a resolution – and they are stopping that from happening."

The current RMT strike dates are 13-14 December, 16-17 December, 24-27 December, 3-4 January and 6-7 January.

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