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U.K. Border Force Agents Strike Amid Holiday Travel

A British Airways Airbus A319 on approach to London’s Heathrow Airport. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

The wave of industrial actions has no sign of abating in the U.K. Britons could spend two hours on passport control as the Border Force agents are set to walkout amid the festive season. 1,000 staff are going to strike on the travel season. The first strikes will take place from Dec. 23 to Dec. 26, and the second strike period will be on Dec. 28 to Dec. 31. 


The U.K. is expecting an extremely busy holiday after the pandemic, but the strike could cost Britons and their holiday plans. The industrial action will affect the major airports across the country, including London’s Heathrow Airport, London’s Gatwick Airport, Manchester, Birmingham, Wales’s Cardiff and Scotland’s Glasgow Airport. 


More than 100,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) have voted in favor of industrial action. 75% of Border Force agents are among the members of PCS. The PCS has demanded a 10% pay rise, preventing job redundancy in the future and reductions on pensions.


Home Office is “disappointed with the union’s decision” and mentioned the government has robust plans in place to minimize any delays. Earlier, Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary of the United Kingdom, asked the citizens to “think carefully“ before making decisions on traveling abroad during the Christmas holidays.


The government forecasted the strike could leave the arriving passengers facing two hours at the border and the second strike could affect the travelers coming back to the U.K.


“If everything backs up, or anything fails, the airports will have to instruct that passengers are held on planes to prevent overcrowding,” according to reports from local media.


According to local media, a total of 10,072 arrivals with more than two million travelers could be affected. Heathrow would be the most affected airport during the industrial action.

 Heathrow said the ”vast majority of a journey through will be unaffected”, but it “strength contingency plans and minimize any disruption.”


It is expected 625 military personnel and civil servants have been deployed on standby to cover the airport. Meanwhile, Border Force has urged the airlines to reduce their schedules by 30%. However, there is no cancellation has been made thus far.

Free Ticket Changes for Passengers

In response to the strike, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have restricted their ticket sales from Christmas Eve to New Year’s Eve. Both airlines are continuing to work closely with the government to minimize the impact of the strikes.


“We’re offering anyone booked to travel on an international flight into London Heathrow or Gatwick Airport on strike dates the option to change their flight dates.,” British Airways said.


Virgin Atlantic allows their passengers at Heathrow and Manchester to change their flights on strike days as a result, but the new travel dates must be completed by Jan. 14.  Jet2 is going to operate a full schedule throughout the strike period. EasyJet, the budget carrier, has informed their passengers could face long queues at the airports.


Pete Ainsley


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