Christmas getaway hit by air and rail strikes
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.