Strike will paralyse Heathrow ops
London - A nationwide public-sector strike next Wednesday in Britain threatens to paralyse operations at Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport.
BAA, the airport's operator, said Friday 12-hour delays for arriving passengers are likely because the November 30 strike will hit the UK Border Agency's ability to support normal operations.
An estimated 2 million workers are expected to protest changes in public-sector pensions with a 24-hour walkout - billed as potentially the biggest union action since 1979.
The lines at Heathrow's immigration counters are expected to be so long that passengers will need to be held on planes, BAA warned.
"This in turn would quickly create gridlock at the airport, with no available aircraft parking stands, mass cancellations of departing aircraft and diversions outside the UK for arriving aircraft," Normand Boivin, the chief operating officer for Heathrow, warned in a letter to airlines.
The letter, written Thursday and shared with The Associated Press, urged airlines to reduce the number of passengers they bring in on November 30 because BAA had "reluctantly concluded that the UK Border Agency wouldn't be able to come up with a contingency plan to ensure business-as-usual".
Boivin said the border agency expects to be functioning at less than 50% of normal productivity.
The border agency said it is exploring all options to minimize the disruption caused by planned union action.
Government ministers have warned the nationwide could cost the economy half a billion pounds and lead to job losses.
Heathrow Airport handles 180 000 passengers on a typical day, according to BAA.