Heathrow CEO Says Strike Threatens Olympic Travel on Busiest Day
London Heathrow airport owner BAA Ltd. said it’s impossible to guarantee disruption-free travel at Europe’s largest hub tomorrow as immigration officials strike on the busiest day for arrivals before the 2012 Olympics.
While BAA’s staffing will be at maximum levels, assisted by volunteers drafted in to aid arriving athletes and officials, the length of queues for people entering Britain will be determined by how many Border Agency officials turn up for work, Chief Executive Officer Colin Matthews said in an interview.
“I can offer no guarantees,” he said. “We can provide water and apples or whatever to people who are waiting, but it is ultimately down to the number of desks manned. People arriving for the games have so far had a really excellent experience. What a pity if we were to throw that away.”
The U.K. government will meanwhile seek a High Court injunction today that would prevent the strike by members of the Public and Commercial Services Union, the Home Office said in a statement. The action will cite an error in the PCS ballot, it said, while appealing for the walkout to be abandoned.
“We want the PCS leadership to call off this irresponsible strike and we continue to ask members not to walk out at a time when the eyes of the world are on the U.K.,” the Home Office said in the release.
U.K. Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is coordinating the Olympics, said enough immigration officials will be deployed to prevent disruption even if the strike goes ahead.
“We can be very confident in the contingency plans,” Hunt told BBC Radio 4’s “Today” program. The Border Agency needs 550 workers at passport control and there are ‘‘584 shifts confirmed for Thursday despite the strike,” he said.
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