UK expats in UAE might not be home for Christmas

Published:  21 Dec at 6 PM
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Christmas plans of UK expats living and working in the UAE risk being wrecked by threats of strike action from three major carriers.

Three airlines are involved in a rash of labour actions aimed at disrupting many flights, including those booked by UAE expats returning home for Christmas celebrations with families and friends. Virgin Atlantic, British Airways and Swissport are all facing industrial action by disgruntled employees backed by their trade union.

Of the 120,000 UK expats living in the UAE, a good few return regularly to the home country for the Christmas and New Year festivities. The strike is expected to severely affect those arriving at Heathrow as well as causing travel delays on domestic flights, and will also impact families flying to the UAE from Heathrow to spend the festive season with their loved ones.

The British airline industry’s Unite trade union is responsible for the threatened chaos on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, but British Airways is assuring passengers it will do its level best to keep its operations on schedule. Contingency plans are in place for flights to and from the UAE, and include BA’s regular thrice daily Dubai route and its single flight to Abu Dhabi.

A statement from BA says it’s planning a full service on both days, in spite of the threat of strike action. However, media reports of 1500 check-in staff, cargo workers and baggage handlers at Swissport voting for strike action in 18 UK airports over the holiday season don’t reassure travellers attempting to get home. In addition, Virgin Atlantic is facing a work-to-rule to begin on 23rd December as part of a long-running worker clash with management.

Historically and possibly understandingly, the British travel industry’s trade unions have centred protest actions on national holidays in order to cause as much disruption as possible to members’ employers. However, given the present climate of national uncertainty, putting a stop to so many peoples’ Christmas plans may be seen as less acceptable than in the past.
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