Travellers Face Border Misery as British Immigration Officials Strike

May 8, 2012
(1:15 p.m. EDT) -- Travellers arriving in Britain this Thursday, May 10, could face long queues to clear immigration thanks to a strike by immigration officials.

Up to 4,600 of the U.K.'s Border Force staff are threatening a 24-hour walkout in a dispute over pensions. This is part of a nationwide strike by some 200,000 public sector workers and could potentially affect all airports, the Eurostar rail stations and sea ports.

If the strike goes ahead, police officers and civil servants are to be drafted in to man immigration desks. The Home Office has predicted that disruption will be ‘minimal' -- and indeed, during the last border control strike, in November 2011, it was much less severe than had been feared. But this time round, the busy summer holiday season is beginning and the already over-stretched Heathrow Airport has been widely criticised in the British media recently for the queues of up to three hours to get through border control since security checks were tightened up.

Departing flights could be affected, too, as aircraft may be delayed or prevented from landing if there are excessive numbers of passengers in the immigration areas of airports.

The news is better for cruise passengers sailing out of the U.K. Both P&O Cruises and Fred. Olsen Cruises have ships disembarking and embarking in Southampton and Dover respectively on Thursday. But a spokeswoman for P&O told Cruise Critic there were no problems at Southampton during the last border strike, and Fred. Olsen has also confirmed that it is not expecting delays.

--by Sue Bryant, Cruise Critic Contributing Editor