Arrivals and departures at London’s Heathrow and Gatwick airports have been largely unaffected by striking public sector workers.
A few inbound transatlantic flights to Heathrow Airport were cancelled on Wednesday morning, but BAA and British Airways said services were almost operating as usual. Fears of long queues at immigration as UK Border Agency (UKBA) staff go on strike have yet to materialise. About two-thirds of staff at Heathrow are believed to have reported to work as normal.
A spokesman for British Airways said: “We’ve had a positive start to the day and queues are pretty much as normal.”
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Meanwhile, Gatwick Airport had received around 8,000 passengers on 57 inbound flights by 10am. Passengers were passing through border zones without any delay, while those departing from the airport were also leaving on schedule.
A BAA spokesman said: “Due to the effective contingency plans we have put in place with the airlines and the UKBA over recent days, immigration queues are currently at normal levels. However, there still remains a possibility of delays for arriving passengers later in the day.
“As a result of the whole airport community working together over the past few days, we have more immigration officers on duty and fewer passengers arriving than would otherwise be the case. That puts us in a better place to avoid the serious delays and widespread disruption at Heathrow that were projected last week.”
Gatwick chief operating officer Scott Stanley confirmed passengers have not experienced delays so far at the border zones, but warned delays could occur later in the day when the rate of arriving flights rises. Stanley said: “That said, we do have robust plans in place to help keep those delays at the border zones to a minimum. To help avoid overcrowding, we have reconfigured both our airside terminals to provide significantly more space and seating for arriving passengers.”
Passengers travelling through Heathrow airport confirmed border controls were working well, despite the strikes by UKBA staff. Debbie Arnell from Bournemouth, arriving at terminal five, said: “I have used this terminal seven times before and today was better than usual. They were even giving out free fruit and water, which they don’t usually do. It’s almost like they have over-compensated.”
Richard Bunkham from London described queues at passport control were “negligible”. Bunkham said: “I use iris recognition so don’t usually get held up anyway, but you could see that today it was much better than usual.”
Arriving at Gatwick airport, George Frizzell from Lincolnshire said: “It was very smooth. There were lots of staff there and a police presence in case there were any arguments. We travel a lot and that is the quickest we’ve ever got through so maybe they should go on strike more often.”