Simon Calder warns airport passengers not to ‘wear a hat’

Travel expert Simon Calder gives advice amid border force strikes

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Border Force staff are due to go on strike around Christmas over a pay dispute. Simon shared his advice with BBC Breakfast.

Simon said: “The PCS Union, members of Border Force at six UK airports are going on strike.

“They are Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow. The biggest three in the UK.

“If you’re flying from anywhere else, then do not worry, you will be unaffected. Here’s the scenario everyone is worried about.

“So the first wave of flights, and I’ve checked, at eight of the nation’s 10 airports, their busiest day for departures at least is going to be on Friday.

“Heathrow has 50 wide-body flights before 7am, that’s over 10,000 people and if they all have experienced a slow process going through immigration then you might have to have people held on planes.

“If that happens, the departing passengers can’t get on the planes and if that happens then you get delays, diversions and cancellations.

“That’s what everyone’s worried about. So if you have got a passport then, if you possibly can, and this doesn’t work for families, use the e-gates and the airports, Gatwick in particular, are saying ‘do not wear a hat’, ‘do not wear your glasses’ and ‘don’t have earphones in’ because that could slow down your process through the e-gates.”

Passengers will also need to remove passports from covers if they want to use the airport e-gates.

Tourists must be over the age of 12 to use them and have a biometrics symbol on the cover of their passports.

Simon added: “Just to be absolutely clear, Heathrow says that all departing travellers will travel as normal.

“There might be a few hiccups with arriving passengers. Gatwick says it’s all going to be fine. Manchester was already talking about cancellations.

“But the big airlines have stopped selling tickets into the UK on the strike days. And just to remind you, 23-26 December and then 28 December to New Year’s Eve. They’ve stopped selling tickets inbound to reduce the stress on the system.”

However, the travel expert added: “But look, most people will get where they want to be and have a fantastic experience and you deserve it.”

Travellers are also facing chaos on Britain’s railways as RMT staff take part in industrial action around Christmas.

Eurostar trains are also unable to run on December 26, services can’t run to and from St Pancras as the UK’s high speed line is closed.

However, Simon recalled the Gatwick drone chaos in December 2018 when 140,000 passengers were affected.

Simon’s advice for e-gates

  • Don’t wear a hat
  • Don’t wear headphones
  • Take off glasses or sunglasses

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