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Strikes hit UK travel at festive peak time



| China Daily UK | Updated: 2016-12-22 17:56

Strikes hit UK travel at festive peak time

People walk across London Bridge on the second day of a train strike in London, Dec 14, 2016. [Photo/Agencies]

Tourists visiting the UK over Christmas, including a record number expected from China, may be hit with travel disruptions because of a wave of strikes by thousands of airline and railway workers.

Patricia Yates, director of Visit Britain, the UK's official tourism board, said: "Latest flight booking data shows that bookings from China to the UK were up 24 percent for December compared to last year. We anticipate a busy and successful Christmas travel period, despite proposed industrial strikes."

British Airways cabin crew based at Heathrow Airport are set to walk out on Christmas Day and Boxing Day in a row over pay and conditions.

The action, backed by the Unite trade union, could involve up to 4,500 staff on "mixed fleet" contracts who joined BA after 2010.

However, 1,500 Swissport check-in staff, baggage handlers, and cargo crew at 18 UK airports who were planning a 48-hour strike on Dec 23 and Dec 24 in a dispute over pay, have called of their action after Unite struck a deal with the company on Tuesday.

Conductors on Southern Railway, which connects London with the south coast, are set to strike over the New Year holiday, and that will be followed by a five-day train drivers' strike starting Jan 9.

David Higgins, general manager of China Links Travel, said: "The airline strikes will cause major disruption as many flights over this period will be fully booked, so it will be difficult to transfer to new flights. Those travelling independently may find travelling around more difficult if there are further rail strikes."

His company is hosting three generations of one Chinese family on Christmas Day and he hopes they will arrive on time and enjoy Christmas in a traditional English village.

"Clients will miss out on such experiences if flights are being cancelled due to strikes," he said. Travelers are being advised to check the BA website for up-to-date information.

BA said the company plans to have a full schedule on Dec 25 and 26, despite the proposed industrial action.

Alex Cruz, BA CEO, said: "We are making sure that this attempt to ruin Christmas for thousands of our customers fails. We have been working on detailed contingency plans to ensure that we are able to operate our normal flight program from all our airports on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day."

Meanwhile, 4,000 Post Office workers are staging a five-day strike in the days before Christmas in a dispute over pensions.

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