Airlines ordered to give food, drink and hotel rooms to passengers hit by UK strikes

Around 1,000 Border Force staff are expected to walk out before Christmas

Airports are expected to be hit by long queues and flight disruption due to a strike by Border Force workers. Reuters
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Airlines have been ordered by the UK's aviation regulator to “look after their passengers” ahead of a strike by border workers.

Flight cancellations and large queues are expected at major airports due to the action which takes place amid widespread industrial unrest in Britain.

The Civil Aviation Authority said travellers should be given food, drinks and overnight accommodation as required if flights are delayed or cancelled, but warned that customers are unlikely to be entitled to compensation.

Around 1,000 Border Force staff who are members of the Public and Commercial Services Union at Heathrow, Birmingham, Cardiff, Gatwick, Glasgow and Manchester airports will strike every day from December 23 to the end of the year, except December 27.

The action is part of a bitter dispute over pay, pensions and jobs.

There are fears that delays in checking the passports of arriving passengers could lead to long queues and even people being held on planes, disrupting subsequent departures.

CAA consumer director Paul Smith said that he expected the strikes to lead to longer queues and wait times than normal when arriving at the UK border, as well as possible flight disruption.

“In the event of delays and cancellations, airlines have an obligation to look after their passengers”, he said.

“Where a flight is cancelled, airlines also have an obligation to help passengers find an alternative flight or to provide a refund, although, given the circumstances, passengers may be unable to get to their destinations as quickly as we or airlines would like.

“We expect airlines to do what they can to minimise the overall disruption to passengers, and this includes proactively providing passengers with updates and information about their rights when flights are disrupted.”

He also said that the planned strikes were outside of the control of airlines so it is unlikely that customers will be entitled to compensation for any delays.

Military personnel are being trained to step in at airports if required during the strikes.

The Home Office has warned passengers to “be prepared to face longer wait times at UK border control”.

“We are ready to welcome millions of passengers heading off to enjoy the holidays with family and friends,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said.

“We have extra people in the terminals on the busiest days, including me and my management team, to ensure we get people on their way as smoothly as possible and start to bring the joy back into travel.

UK strikes – in pictures

“We are doing everything we can to protect full operating schedules on Border Force strike days and departing journeys and the vast majority of arriving journeys should be unaffected.”

Heathrow is confident most travellers will be not be affected by the strike by Border Force officials over the Christmas period.

“We are doing everything we can to protect a full flight schedule on strike days, so departing passengers should expect to travel as normal,” Heathrow said.

“We are ready to welcome millions of passengers heading off to enjoy the holidays with family and friends,” Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said.

“We have extra people in the terminals on the busiest days, including me and my management team, to ensure we get people on their way as smoothly as possible and start to bring the joy back into travel.

“We are doing everything we can to protect full operating schedules on Border Force strike days and departing journeys and the vast majority of arriving journeys should be unaffected.”

Updated: December 14, 2022, 11:58 AM
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