Border Force officials will join the wave of industrial action across Britain on Friday, kicking off the first of a series of strikes at airports, as Royal Mail staff walk out two days before Christmas.
Passengers traveling to the UK have been warned to be prepared for longer queues at airport immigration, while many letters and parcels are now not being delivered before Christmas as staff take action against underpaid wages.
Heathrow, the largest of the six airports where Border Force staff will strike, said it expected the vast majority of travel to remain unaffected and no flights canceled ahead of the strike.
About 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) will continue to strike for the remaining days of 2022, with the exception of December 27.
The Home Office, which is responsible for Border Force, has called on officials from other departments and hundreds of members of the armed forces to mitigate the impact of the strikes.
Border Force chief operating officer Steve Dann is not ruling out worst-case airport closures, and he said the traveling public should expect disruptions.
Just under 9,000 flights will now land at the six affected airports – Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Gatwick, Heathrow and Manchester – carrying a total of 1.8 million passengers, according to data from aviation analytics firm Cirium. Officials will also strike in one seaport, Newhaven in East Sussex.
The airports are confident that emergency personnel and e-gates, which remain unaffected, will effectively handle most passengers during the strikes. The number of passengers traveling through airports is still only about 85% of its pre-pandemic level.
Heathrow expects departing flights to have little or no impact as all terminals are open as usual, but warned that incoming travelers should be prepared for longer waiting times in the immigration hall, especially if they don’t have passports that can be used at the automatic gates.
Meanwhile, Royal Mail said it would do everything it could to ensure the delivery of last-minute Christmas cards and parcels as tens of thousands of postal workers walk out again in an increasingly bitter dispute with its staff in the Communications Workers Union.