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U.K. set for Christmas travel disruption amid air and rail strikes

A train makes its way through the snow in Penistone, South Yorkshire, in March 2022. Passengers face Christmas travel disruption as workers strike over pay and working conditions.

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

LONDON — Passengers traveling into or around the U.K. over the holiday period face significant disruption due to strikes, with the government urging people to reconsider their plans.

Airport staff working for the U.K. Border Force are due to walk out from Dec. 23 to 26, and again from Dec. 28 to New Year’s Eve.

It will impact services at the U.K.’s busiest airport, London Heathrow, as well as London Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow. The government is set to bring in soldiers to assist at passport control and with staffing, it confirmed Thursday, as between 2,000 and 3,000 workers plan to strike.

Suella Braverman, the U.K.’s interior minister, warned there would be “undeniable, serious disruption,” and said people planning to travel abroad should “think carefully about their plans because they may well be impacted.”

The affected airports are due to see 10,072 flight arrivals, totaling more than 2 million seats, between Dec. 23 and 31, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium. One million of those are into Heathrow.

The head of the Public and Commercial Services Union, Mark Serwotka, said the government could stop the strikes by meeting their demands, which include a pay raise, job security and no cuts to redundancy terms. Serwotka said some of its members were using food banks due to low pay.

Meanwhile the RMT, the rail workers’ union, has confirmed strikes will take place on Dec. 13 to 14, Dec. 16 to 17, and from 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve until Dec. 27, as well as on some days in January. Around half of railways are due to be shut on these dates.

Rail bosses have said people should only travel if necessary and check their train operator’s network for the status of their particular journey. Travel may also be disrupted on non-strike days due to trains being in the wrong location.

Some pub and restaurant traders have said they fear a reduction in trade during what is usually the busiest time of the year as a result.

The union is calling for a pay raise in line with inflation, a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies until April 2024, and changes to working conditions, which it says currently make train travel less safe.

December is set to see a wave of strike action in the U.K., including by postal and ambulance workers.

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