Come Wednesday and the airports all over the UK just might bear pictures of utmost frenzy as travellers may face a waiting period of up to 12 hours to clear immigration as fewer than half the immigration desks will be manned.
Mass flight cancellations are on the cards due to next week’s public sector strike that is set to engulf UK international airports.
London Heathrow is expected to be most affected airport as it is the busiest one in the entire European continent. Add to it the flight pattern of the airport and the problem augments for the travellers. Almost 100 long-haul flights are scheduled to land at Heathrow before 9am on Wednesday.
“Modelling of the impacts of strike action on passenger flows show that there are likely to be very long delays of up to 12 hours to arriving passengers,” Normand Boivin, Chief Operating Officer of Heathrow wrote in a letter posted on the airport's website.
Mr Boivin also urged that carriers with flight operations to Heathrow on 30 November to half the passenger load to reduce delays.
“We will plan for a normal flight schedule, but we are requesting all carriers to reduce load factors on each international flight arriving into Heathrow on 30 November to 50 per cent of normal levels,” he wrote.
Gatwick has also warned of “significant disruption” on Wednesday if the unions opt for the strike.
Scott Stanley, Gatwick's Chief Operating Officer, warned: “Unfortunately, airport staff can not man the desks at the Border Zone but we will provide all necessary assistance to the Border Agency and we are determined to make sure that the needs and welfare of all our passengers will be met on the day.”
The row is over planned alterations to public sector pensions.
Almost every airline with flight operations to the UK has issued travel warnings to its passengers for Wednesday. Most of them are offering flight changes free of cost to reduce troubles for passengers who were lucky enough to grab cheap flight tickets. So far, very few carriers like Etihad have announced flight cancellation for the day.
Qantas is offering to rebook on alternative flights between 28 November 2011 and 07 December 2011 for passengers who are scheduled to arrive at London Heathrow on Wednesday. British Airways is also offering free of cost flight changes for passengers.
Easyjet, a no frills airline known for doling out cheap flight tickets, has warned travellers to be prepared for hold-up and allow for delays while making further travel plans.
Airlines in the Gulf have also issued warnings to put the travellers on alert who have bookings on flights to UK on Wednesday. Gulf Air warned that flights to UK may face massive delays on the 30th.
Qatar Airways stated flights to London Heathrow and Manchester will most likely be affected by the strike.