Air and train passengers travelling over the Christmas period could be hit by a series of planned strikes by Southern Rail and British Airways staff. Here's what we know about the threatened travel disruption and what your rights are if you're affected.
Here's a round-up of the main transport strikes planned:
- Southern Rail strike underway now, with more planned from Sat 31 Dec to Mon 2 Jan. Train guards are striking on Mon 19 and Tue 20 Dec, following action last week that caused the service to shut down for three days. Further strikes are planned on New Year's Eve, New Year's Day and Mon 2 Jan, then between Mon 9 Jan and Sat 14 Jan.
- BA cabin crew will strike on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Thousands of cabin crew have voted to take industrial action on Christmas Day and Boxing Day, though again talks will be held in the meantime to try to avert the strike.
A planned strike of about 1,500 check-in staff, baggage handlers and cargo crew at 18 UK airports on 23 and 24 December has now been called off by trade union Unite.
Southern Rail strikes – disruption likely, but some can get refunds
If you're a regular traveller on the Southern network you'll be no stranger to the issues caused by recent strike action – unfortunately the disruption is set to continue this week and over New Year.
On Mon 19 Dec and Tue 20 Dec there were delays and cancellations on some routes, and further industrial action is planned between Saturday 31 December and Monday 2 January, and then from Monday 9 January to Saturday 14 January.
If you're affected though you may be able to reclaim:
- Arrive more than 15 mins late? Get at least 25% back. Southern is signed up to the Delay Repay 15 scheme, so offer a refund for a delay of 15+ minutes, regardless of cause. You get 25% of a single fare back for delays of 15-29 mins, 50% for 30-59 mins, 100% for 60-119 mins and 100% of a return journey for more than 120 mins. You can apply online.
- Don't want to travel? You can get a full refund. This excludes season ticket holders unfortunately, but everyone else can get a full refund if their train's cancelled and they decide not to travel.
- Been persistently delayed? You may get a one-off lump-sum refund. Southern announced earlier this month that more than 84,000 people will get a one-off payment for a month's travel after the massive disruption in recent months. You must have bought tickets for at least 12 weeks between 24 Apr and 31 Dec to qualify – Southern will contact customers it believes qualify in January.
British Airways – short-haul flights from Heathrow affected, you can get a refund
Update Friday 23 December: Since we published this story, the Unite union has confirmed that planned strikes by BA cabin crew have been suspended after talks via conciliation service Acas led to a revised offer on pay and conditions.
Talks are being held between BA and the Unite union this week to discuss the possibility of calling off industrial action which would involve about 4,500 staff downing tools on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Short-haul flights in and out of Heathrow could be delayed or cancelled - long-haul flights and those at other airports won't be affected.
BA to refund or re-route passengers on cancelled flights
If your flight is cancelled, BA says you'll be able to choose either to get a refund or be switched to a different flight from an unaffected airport within a 300-mile radius.
Additionally, if you've booked a short-haul flight to or from Heathrow and you're worried it'll be cancelled because of the upcoming strike, you can choose to cancel the booking yourself now and get a full refund.
If your flight is delayed or cancelled and it's the airline's fault, you can often claim up to £520 per person in compensation under EU regulations (see our Flight Delays guide for full info). However, BA has confirmed that it won't be paying compensation to passengers for flights that are delayed as a result of the strike. This is because it would be considered to be outside the airline's control and so isn't covered by the EU rules.
Check your travel insurance too - it may cover a refund and even extra costs
If your flight has been cancelled and you've been re-routed via a different airport, or if your flight's been delayed and you don't qualify for compensation, there's a chance you may be able to make a claim on your travel insurance policy.
Travel policies do sometimes include cover for abandonment (cancellation) as a result of strike action. But travel insurance cover differs from policy to policy so check the exact wording and clarify the extent of any cover with your insurer.
Travel insurance may also cover you if your plans are disrupted and you suffer additional losses as a result (for instance if you had car hire or accommodation booked). Even if BA offers you a refund for a cancelled flight, it's unlikely to cover these extra costs.
What other industrial action is planned over Christmas?
The transport strikes listed above aren't the only walk-outs planned over the festive season – here's what else is happening:
- Post Office. About 300 post offices may have to reduce or cancel services this week, after the Communication Workers Union confirmed strike action will take place. Postal deliveries aren't expected to be affected, but if you're posting a parcel do so ASAP.
- Virgin Atlantic. While not a fully fledged strike, Virgin pilots will work "strictly to contract" with a removal of "goodwill" from Fri 23 Dec in a row over union recognition. Virgin says it doesn't expect flights to be affected though.
- Argos. A 72-hour strike by delivery drivers at Argos, which had been scheduled to start on Tue 20 Dec, has been called off after Unite members agreed to vote on an offer to resolve a dispute about holiday pay.
- Weetabix. A row over shift patterns will result in workers at cereal company Weetabix going on strike in the New Year. The Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers said action would affect workplaces in Corby and Kettering. Each strike will run for 24 hours.