Border Control Strikes Threaten to Cripple U.K. Airports

June 29, 2011
(6:30 a.m. EDT) -- Travellers trying to enter or leave Britain tomorrow, June 30, could find themselves with long delays due to a strike by workers for the UK Border Agency, which controls immigration at all air and sea ports and international rail terminals. The strike, called by the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) over pension cuts, starts tonight and will continue until Thursday evening. Actual times of walk-outs will vary as border staff work different shifts in each location. But one thing's definite: The airports will be chaotic, as (according to The Daily Telegraph) 70 per cent of all Border Agency staff are members of the PCS union and are likely to strike. Arriving passengers can expect long queues for immigration, which will operate using temporary staff. If the immigration halls are over-crowded, passengers may be held onboard flights that have landed, thus delaying the turnaround of the aircraft and causing knock-on delays. Anyone who misses a flight because they have been held in a queue will not be covered by insurance and will not be the responsibility of the airline. On its web site, the UK Border Agency asks members of the public to help by “having travel documents, including passports, available and taken out of any wallets and using automatic e-Passport gates”. But this is little consolation to those arriving from countries like the USA, who cannot use the e-Passport gates. Luckily, there are no cruise ship calls at either Dover or Southampton tomorrow, although there's a good chance passengers from the U.S. will be arriving prior to joining Cunard's Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria, both of which depart Southampton on Friday, July 1. There is no easy solution; just be prepared, if you have to travel, for a long wait. --by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor