AIRPORTS across the UK could be forced to close during the Border Force strikes if the situation escalates out of control, a source has warned.
More than 7.2million passengers are expected to fly through London airports this Christmas with it predicted to be the busiest festive travel season since pre-pandemic.
Despite this, Border Force agents are set to walk out on a number of dates this month in a dispute over pay and working conditions.
The strikes are to affect airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham, Cardiff and Glasgow with staff walking out from December 23 until December 26 and December 28 to December 31.
The government has said that contingency plans are in place, with the recruitment of “thousands including civil servants and military personnel”.
However, a source said that while they had plans in place to keep the airports open and operating, they could be forced to close them if the situation escalates.
Passengers are already being warned to expect huge queues at immigration when landing back in the UK, as well as passport control when leaving the country.
A source previously told The Times: “Delays of two hours at the border are being routinely discussed in meetings.
“If everything backs up, or anything fails, then airports will have to instruct that passengers are held on planes to prevent overcrowding.”
Lucy Moreton, of the Union for Borders, Immigration and Customs (ISU) previously warned that the replacement staff “do not have a hope” of doing the full border checks.
She said: “The training they have been given is less than half of what we would give our temporary contingency workforce.
“They can never replace a fully-trained Border Officer.”
However, a source refuted this and said that replacement staff had been trained in all of the relevant areas needed to operate in a similar role to Border Force agents.
Steve Dann, Border Force Chief Operating Officer, apologised for the upcoming disruption and said their “number one priority” was to keep the borders safe.
He added: “We are working together with partners across the travel industry to ensure we can continue to meet critical demand and support the flow of passengers and goods through our border.
“During the periods of industrial action, travellers should be prepared for disruption.
“We encourage everyone to check the latest advice from your operators before travelling.”
Heathrow Airport has also asked airlines to stop selling flights during the strike action, with both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic restricting inbound tickets on some of the days.
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