The organiser of industry exhibition EIBTM has offered reassurance that plans are in place to assist visitors affected by planned strikes at Heathrow Airport next week. Passengers at the London airport could face 12-hour delays when immigration officers go on strike over pensions next Wednesday 30 November. The action coincides with EIBTM, which is being held from 29 November to 1 December in Barcelona.
Currently, 250 UK hosted buyers are expected to fly out to the show on Wednesday, including a group hosted by CAT Publications, with a further 150 buyers expected to return on that date.
However, Graeme Barnett, EIBTM exhibition director, said full contingency plans were in place and the situation was being monitored carefully. "UK hosted buyers with flights booked returning to the UK from Barcelona on Wednesday will be offered the option of an earlier flight
on the Tuesday evening, or
alternatively EIBTM will provide complimentary accommodation for the Wednesday
evening at the Renaissance Barcelona Airport Hotel and a complimentary return
flight on Thursday 1 December on the EIBTM Gatwick charter flight,
effectively giving them more time at the show."
A dedicated information line giving details of assistance
available to hosted buyers will be operational over the weekend - 020 8 271 2127. From Monday 28 November the Hosted Buyer
Management Office onsite at the Fira in Barcelona will be staffed from
09.00-17.00 to provide assistance to those affected by the strike.
It is the second year in a row that the show has had to deal with airport disruption; bad weather in Northern Europe prevented 223 registered hosted buyers from attending in 2010.
The Home Office has said it is exploring all options to minimise disruption and civil servants are being asked to act as airport border staff during the strike action. However, delays at passport control are likely to lead to passengers needing to be held on arriving aircraft, which in turn will result in a lack of aircraft parking stands. Disruption is expected to be particularly severe because nearly 100 long-haul services are due to arrive at Heathrow before 9am on the day of the strike.
In the meantime, British Airways customers arriving on an international flights into
Heathrow, Gatwick or London City airports on Wednesday 30 November have been offered the option of changing their bookings if seats are available on 27, 28 or 29 November or 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 December.