Public Sector Strikes Threaten UK Airports

Public sector workers throughout the UK are planning to go on strike on November 30, 2011, in protest at proposed changes to their pensions and the country’s airports are anticipating serious disruption as a result.  Thousands of border agency staff are expected to be included in the anticipated two million people who are threatening to take industrial action.
The BBC has reported that passengers at London’s Heathrow Airport could face up to 12-hour delays on Wednesday when immigration officers go on strike over pensions.
Airlines were reportedly warned by Heathrow’s Chief Operating Officer Norman Boivin that delays at immigration might be so long that passengers would not be “safely accommodated” in the terminal, meaning that they would “need to be held on arriving aircraft.”  He also said that:  “this in turn would quickly create gridlock at the airport with no available aircraft parking stands, mass cancellations or departing aircraft and diversions outside the UK for arriving aircraft.
“Modelling of the impacts of strike action on passenger flows at Heathrow show that there are likely to be very long delays of up to 12 hours to arriving passengers,” he added.
Airport operator BAA has been holding talks with airlines and the UK Border Agency to try to lessen the impact of Wednesday’s strike.  The Home Office has also said that it was exploring all options to minimise disruption.
Fears of disruption have escalated as nearly 100 long-haul services are due to arrive before 9:00am local time on the day of the strike.  UK ministers have warned that the strikes could cost the UK £500 million and may lead to job losses.