The widely publicised strike action by UK Border Agency yesterday which was part of the general UK public sector day of protest, caused fewer problems than anticipated and certainly not the 12 hour long delays at immigration that passengers had feared. Referring to the strike yesterday, Prime Minister David Cameron dismissed it as “a damp squib”. One in three public sector workers turned out to protest again pension reforms on the day, and schools and hospital services were also hit.
Bosses at BAA, who manage Heathrow Airport, had asked airlines to try to restrict capacity to 50% of the norm but only a total of 60 flights out of a daily schedule of 1,200 at Heathrow were actually cancelled.
Colin Matthews, chief executive of Heathrow owner BAA, is saying the cost to airlines and the operator could amount to millions of pounds. He warned of possible disruption continuing throughout today, the most popular day for re-booked flights.
“We have got another 48 hours before I will say that particular crisis we faced has passed,” Matthews said.
He denied suggestions that BAA’s warnings about 12 hour queues and passengers being kept on planes as bottlenecks built up at the UK Border passport control had been exaggerated deliberately to try to manage the situation.
“Categorically not,” he told The Times. “We would have had pandemonium here today if we had not taken the steps that we have taken.”
Gatwick and other airports reported business as usual, while cross-channel ferries companies and Eurostar said that there was no disruption despite UK Borders Agency staff joining the strike.
Both Heathrow and Gatwick are staying they do not anticipate any major disruption or delays today at all.