Passengers braced for delays as airport staff strikeConsumers may face long queues

30 November 2011

Airport sign directing travellers to the terminal.

Today’s nationwide strike by public sector workers has already resulted in some flight cancellations and lengthy queues are expected for consumers flying into UK airports.

Airport border staff from four unions are among two million workers taking part in today’s strike in protest against government spending cuts and proposed changes to public sector pensions.

How will the strike affect airline passengers?

The only airport staff on strike nationwide are those who check incoming passengers at passport control –  but there are concerns that the pressure could also have a knock-on effect on outgoing flights. 

The government has said that measures are in place to ensure that a pool of suitably trained civil service staff can operate the border securely, and that border control procedures won't be relaxed to ease queues. 

However, UK Border Agency chief executive, Rob Whiteman, said: ‘We always aim to minimise any disruption caused by the decision of unions to strike, but travellers could see longer waiting times at some ports and airports.’

Arriving passengers are advised to use automatic e-passport gates where possible, have travel documents ready to show and stay in family groups.

There is the possibility that arrival halls could get so overcrowded that airports may prevent other planes from landing at allotted times, which would delay passengers due to depart on those same planes.

The strike is due to end at midnight this evening, but there could be knock-on delays tomorrow.

What are your flight rights?

Once an aircraft touches down and passengers are unloaded, airports take over the responsibility for their customers. 

But when inbound flights are cancelled, the usual flight rights apply, such as having to provide phone calls, refreshments and possibly accommodation.

Similarly, if an outbound flight is delayed or cancelled, the airline is obliged to offer such services, depending on the length of the delay. 

However, strikes are usually considered an 'extraordinary circumstance' for airlines, so it's unlikely that flight delay compensation under the EC Denied Boarding Regulations will be paid.

Also, check your travel insurance policy to see whether it excludes cover for issues such as industrial action. You may need to claim on things unrelated to transport such as independently booked accommodation.

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