Anyone thinking of hopping on a plane today for an impromptu getaway may have a long wait, after the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) today joined the planned strike opposing pension reforms in the public sector. PCS members are charged with monitoring air and port terminals, covering immigration and passport control and their absence from their desks today, particularly at Dover and Heathrow, is set to cause major disruption to travel plans. The strikes will affect both domestic and international passengers who arrive via the UK’s busiest ports and airports, although BAA insist passengers departing to overseas locations will remain unaffected, since it is BAA staff who operate outward bound passport control rather than the UK Border Agency (UKBA).
For the duration of the strike, from 6pm yesterday to midnight tonight, UKBA has advised people to avoid flying if at all possible and BAA, who control Aberdeen, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Stansted Airports as well as Heathrow, are predicting large queues at immigration. A ‘theoretical risk to security’ has also been highlighted by PCS Union boss, Mark Serwotka and shop steward, Sue Kendal, agrees, saying it ‘takes an experienced immigration officer to be capable of detecting a forged passport.’ UKBA acting head, Jonathan Sedgwick, insists the priority of the UKBA is to ensure the UK border remains secure.
Delays are not the only concern for passengers as a result of this industrial action, as an unnamed spokesperson for the Civil Aviation Authority explained, ‘Passengers have no rights when it comes to being stuck in a queue at immigration.’ If passengers miss their connecting flight due to the delays they are not protected since it is outside the airline’s control. There seems to be little in the way of good news for air travel in recent times and it just reinforces the belief by increasing numbers that perhaps taking a short break or holiday at home is the best bet this year.
Image: “Don’t Work and Fight Back by secretlondon123, on Flickr”