Christ­mas get­away hit by air and rail strikes

The Daily Telegraph - - News - By Jack Hardy

RAIL and air­line pas­sen­gers will face travel misery this Christ­mas as two ma­jor strikes were an­nounced for the same day.

Pi­lots from Vir­gin At­lantic and mem­bers of the RMT union on South West­ern Rail­way are ex­pected to walk out on Dec 22 in sep­a­rate dis­putes.

The ac­tion threat­ens to cause max­i­mum dis­rup­tion on one of the fi­nal – and busiest – shop­ping days be­fore the fes­tive break, as well as frus­trat­ing get­away plans.

In a de­vel­op­ment de­scribed as “deeply wor­ry­ing” for cus­tomers, the Pro­fes­sional Pi­lots Union (PPU) voted in favour of a strike as it bat­tled to achieve union recognition.

The PPU, which rep­re­sents around a third of Vir­gin’s pi­lots, has been in­volved in a long-run­ning dis­pute over its sta­tus. Steve Johnson, a spokesman, said it had been forced to take ac­tion af­ter be­ing “shut out” of ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Vir­gin At­lantic re­sponded that its “ab­so­lute pri­or­ity” was to en­sure all pas­sen­gers could con­tinue their jour­neys as planned and in­sisted only a “small num­ber” of pi­lots sup­ported strikes.

Rory Boland, ed­i­tor of Which? Travel, said: “This is deeply wor­ry­ing for fam­i­lies and peo­ple des­per­ate to see loved ones over the Christ­mas pe­riod, es­pe­cially with the strike ac­tion po­ten­tially start­ing on what will be one of the busiest travel days of the year.

“Our ad­vice to any­one plan­ning a trip over the Christ­mas break is not to panic but check with Vir­gin At­lantic be­fore you travel.”

Delays and can­cel­la­tions could si­mul­ta­ne­ously hit some of the coun­try’s most crowded rail routes when RMT mem­bers on South West­ern Rail­way launch fresh strike ac­tion.

The com­pany, which has been be­set by trou­ble in re­cent weeks be­cause of sig­nal and train fail­ures, runs ser­vices into Lon­don Water­loo, the busiest sta­tion in the UK.

Work­ers are plan­ning to walk out as part of a pro­longed dis­pute over the role of train guards.

Dec 22 is the fi­nal Satur­day be­fore Christ­mas when Lon­don’s shop­ping dis­trict is tra­di­tion­ally thronged with last-minute gift buy­ers.

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