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Strike threatens to cause 'gridlock' at British airports

The National David Sapsted

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LONDON // Airline passengers heading to Britain face delays of up to 12 hours due to a strike.

The day-long industrial action by immigration and passport staff begins on Wednesday.

The strike is part of a nationwide protest by government workers about proposed pension changes.

There could also be "mass cancellations of departing aircraft" due to gridlock at terminals, according to Norman Boivin, the chief operating officer at London's Heathrow Airport.

He said it might become necessary to advise passengers not to travel on November 30 unless their journeys were essential.

The British government has been training volunteers from the civil service to fill the posts of striking members of the UK Border Agency, but lengthy delays for arriving passengers are considered inevitable. This is likely to result in passengers being held on arriving aircraft. "This in turn would quickly create gridlock at the airport with no available aircraft parking stands, mass cancellations of departing aircraft and diversions outside the UK for arriving aircraft," said Mr Boivin.

He added that the airport operators were asking airlines to reduce by 30 to 50 per cent the normal number of inbound passengers on the day of the strike to help "reduce the risk of being diverted to an airport outside the UK".

Airlines serving the Gulf plan to run services as normal at present but Etihad, which operates flights into both Heathrow and Manchester airports in England, yesterday warned its passengers that the strike "has the potential to cause disruption at all UK airports".

A statement from the airline added: "Any guests wishing to change their itinerary are advised to call an Etihad office or their travel agent."


Airline passengers heading to Britain face delays of up to 12 hours due to a strike by immigration and passport staff that is scheduled to begin on Wednesday.

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