What if the strike affects your travel?

Updated: 

Border controlPA

Travel disruption was probably the least expected effect of the strikes on Wednesday. While we have been planning for school closures and hospital cancellations for weeks, many people had little idea that air travel would be hit too.

So how will the strike affect air travellers, and what can you do if you are caught up in it?

Air travel chaos

The troublesome employees are the border control staff, which means anyone catching a plane out of the UK will run into trouble when they pass through border control and show their passport. There will be a skeleton staff in operation, but not nearly enough. At the very least there will be long delays and queues as people cannot get their passports checked in order to travel to the gate.

However, once congestion reaches a tipping point, flights will also start to be cancelled.

What can you do?

Some airlines, including BA and Virgin, are already offering travellers the opportunity to switch flights to another date free of charge.

If you really need to travel on Wednesday, The Civil Aviation Authority suggests that you call the airline in advance on the day and check your flight is still scheduled to go. If the flight is cancelled, the airline has a responsibility to get you onto an alternative flight without charge or refund the cost of the ticket.

If you fly out

If your flight is still operating, you need to make sure you get to the airport early, factoring in plenty of chaos and queuing time. It's also worth ensuring you have proof of the time you arrived at the airport - ether a timed train ticket or car park ticket would be ideal. That way if things go pear-shaped you can prove it wasn't your fault.

If the queues in the terminal make you miss your flight (and it leaves on time), you will have to rebook elsewhere and claim on your travel insurance. Most policies will cover you for this sort of thing, as long as you have proof of the time you arrived in the airport. However, you need to have bought the insurance before the strike action was announced or it will not apply.

If you have booked accommodation separately from your flight, most policies won't cover you for that and you'll need to try to negotiate with the hotel direct for a refund.

If you fly in

If you are catching a plane into the UK, you can expect to be caught in the chaos too. There may be long queues on arrival, and there may be cancellations as the disruption means planes and crew end up in the wrong places. If you are stuck overseas, the airline has a duty to find you accommodation or food until you can catch a flight home. If you are delayed on arrival you are unlikely to get any help.

If you end up missing a connection because of the queues, your position will depend on how you booked the ticket. If you bought the flights together, the airline is responsible for getting you to your destination in any way possible. If you bought them separately, your insurer may cover you, but this isn't always the case.

Given the expected chaos, if you can change your travel plans, then it's well worth considering. Call your airline and see if they are offering a switch. If you cannot switch then make sure you check your position with your travel insurer so there are no nasty surprises waiting in store.

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