Bosses at Britain’s busiest airport, Heathrow, say they intend to run every flight scheduled during the impending strike by members of the PCS union who work for UK Border Force.

Heathrow is by far the biggest airport that will be affected by the stoppage, which runs 23-26 and 28-31 December inclusive.

The industrial action is part of a dispute about pay, pensions and job security.

To replace the staff who normally check the passports of arriving passengers, military personnel and civil servant volunteers are being trained – but will not be able to provide the same level of service.

The home secretary, Suella Braverman, has warned passengers to expect severe disruption as a result of the strike. But boss of the Heathrow says departing journeys and vast majority of arrivals will be unaffected.

The airport’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said: “We are doing everything we can to protect full operating schedules on Border Force strike days and departing journeys and the vast majority of arriving journeys should be unaffected.

“We have extra people in the terminals on the busiest days, including me and my management team, to ensure we get people on their way as smoothly as possible and start to bring the joy back into travel.”

As The Independent has revealed, Heathrow will feel the effects most keenly on the first day of the strike. According to calculations from the flight data specialist Cirium, 583 flights with 126,700 seats are scheduled to arrive at Heathrow on 23 December.

The Independent understands that some incoming flights could be re-timed to spread arrivals more evenly across the day. More than 50 intercontinental flights are due to arrive at Heathrow before 7am, representing around 12,000 passengers.

Some arrivals – especially from North America – could be re-timed to touch down several hours later.

As at all airports, Christmas Day will be the quietest of the strike days, with just 83,400 passengers on 352 flights. But Heathrow returns to full strength from 28-30 December. Each day will see around 125,000 passengers on 575 flights.

The other airports affected by the strike are Gatwick, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow and Cardiff.

Meanwhile, the general secretary of the PCS, Mark Serwotka, hit out at the use of servicemen and women to check passports.

He said: “Our Border Force members are specialists in their fields and can’t be replaced by people with just days of training.

“The home secretary says she isn’t ‘willing to compromise on security at the border’ but she’s happy to use untrained military personnel to break a strike by workers.

“Our members have been offered a pathetic 2 per cent pay rise, one of the lowest offers across the economy. If she’s serious about resolving this dispute, she should put money on the negotiating table, not uniformed soldiers in our airports.”


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