Easter holidays at risk as Heathrow tells airlines to stop selling tickets during strikes
Holidaymakers travelling abroad this Easter could see their plans scuppered as strikes at home and on the continent cause travel chaos.
Heathrow has told airlines that they should stop selling tickets for the Easter period, owing to strikes by security staff which look set to cause major delays at the UK’s largest airport.
It comes on top of a five-week strike by passport officers beginning at the start of April which also promises to make holidays more difficult, while industrial action in France and Spain has led travel firms to warn customers about potential problems.
The disruption comes as the travel industry is still getting back on its feet after the pandemic.
Easter is traditionally the busiest period for overseas travel after the summer holidays.
Last year aviation data firm Cirium recorded 9,200 flights with 1.6 million seats setting off from the UK between Good Friday and Easter Monday last year.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership said strikes would impact travel and warned passengers to expect longer wait times.
She added: “Just when we thought we were turning a corner following the past three years of the pandemic, the last thing the industry now needs is further strike action in Spain, France and Heathrow, which could impact consumer confidence.”
Foreign holidays bouncing back after Covid
Last week, research from travel association ABTA showed that demand for foreign holidays had recovered since the pandemic, with two thirds of Britons planning a foreign holiday in the next year.
However, those looking to book last-minute trips could be thwarted after Heathrow told airlines to halt ticket sales for the 10-day Easter strike period.
More than 1,500 security workers at Heathrow’s terminal 5 are set to walk out from March 31 to April 9.
British Airways passengers will be worst affected by the action as the terminal exclusively serves flights from the airline. The Telegraph has contacted British Airways for comment.
It is understood that a number of other Heathrow airlines are waiting for more information before making changes to their ticketing policies.
The strikes could have knock-on impacts to other terminals, with a large part of the workforce being removed and Heathrow having to fill roles.
It is feared that this could result in a repeat of the flight cancellations seen last summer when staff shortages meant thousands of flights were cancelled at the airport amid long delays for travellers.
More than 1,000 members of the Public and Commercial Services union working in passport offices will strike between April 3 and May 5, meaning huge delays for those waiting to travel in Easter and the summer.
Continent also hit by action
The problems faced by travellers at home are equalled by issues abroad, with industrial action across the continent hitting air and rail travel.
During the general strike in France on Thursday hundreds of thousands of workers walked out over Emmanuel Macron’s pension reforms.
This included industrial action by air traffic controllers, with Easyjet and Jet 2 issuing "delay and disruption" warnings to passengers flying to French airports. Eurostar was forced to cancel eight services between London and Amsterdam and London and Paris.
Industrial action is expected to continue in the coming weeks with a recent survey by pollsters Elabe finding that 56 per cent of the French public support rolling strikes.
Holidaymakers heading to Spain in the coming weeks are being warned to expect delays in some of the country's most popular airports owing to baggage handler strikes.
Swissport Handling staff’s two-month strike campaign is set to continue up to mid-April, and will affect airports in Barcelona, Tenerife and Lanzarote.