Reconsider your plans. That’s the message from United Kingdom officials as thousands of airport and railway staff prepare to strike over the busy holiday travel season.
Set To Strike
Employees working for the United Kingdom Border Force are scheduling a strike from December 23 to 26. A second strike is set for December 28 to 31. Up to 3,000 airport workers plan to strike, severely affecting staffing issues within the airport and passport movement into and out of the United Kingdom. That means airports will have a decreased ability to process foreigners entering the United Kingdom.
There will be “undeniable, serious disruption” during this time, according to the UK’s interior minister Suella Braverman. She is asking passengers to “think carefully about their plans because they may well be impacted.”
The strikes will affect all major international airports in England, Wales, and Scotland. This includes London Heathrow, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff, and Glasgow. These airports collectively will see more than 10,000 flight arrivals during the strike periods.
To give you an idea of how many people this affects, aviation officials are expecting one million passengers to travel through London Heathrow alone during that time. Another million people are expected throughout the other affected airports.
The union representing railroad workers, RMT, is also announcing strikes during the holiday travel season. Rail strikes will take place on December 13, 14, 16, and 17, then again from the evening of Christmas Eve until December 27. These strikes will force nearly half of the nation’s railways to shut down due to a lack of staff.
Rail officials are asking residents and visitors to travel by rail only when necessary and be prepared for additional delays during non-strike days as the railways work to get trains back to where they need to be located.
To help ease the staffing shortages, the government is bringing in soldiers to help throughout the airport, specifically with passport control. Officials at London Heathrow tell the BBC they are aiming for no flight cancellations during the strike periods and hope temporary staff will ease the travel issues.
“Border Force has contingency measures to ensure other arriving passengers are cleared safely and as quickly as possible,” Heathrow officials say. “Arriving passengers with UK, EU, U.S, Canadian, and some other passports will be able to use eGates as usual and their journeys should be largely unaffected on strike days.”
The eGates are a self-service option for crossing the border into the UK Machines scan your passport and confirm your identity through facial recognition.
Government officials are also continuing negotiations with the airport workers’ union, the Public and Commercial Services Union, as well as the railway’s union. Airport workers are demanding a pay raise and job security, while the railway union is fighting for a pay raise and changes to working conditions to increase safety.