Lights, strikes and the fastest flights: What’s in store for travel this Christmas!
Chalkmarks: Christmas scene in London, England, December 2022

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 9th December 2022

UNDERNEATH those front-page headlines of Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary were some very important Christmas travel news. Qatar we ready? Yes oui are! Let’s take a look

Not so far…

All strikes are going ahead: Things got so bad this week the rail union announced that workers would strike on Christmas Eve from 6pm. The RMT insisted this won’t seriously hit passengers travelling home for Christmas as Network Rail would have already disrupted services with its planned engineering work, which starts from Friday 23rd until Tuesday 3rd January 2023. Due to Network Rail’s track renewals and maintenance on the system, it’s the heavily reduced services that will be affected (cancelled!) by the walkout. Hint: be all wrapped up at home by 6pm on Christmas Eve.

Driving home for Christmas: Cars and coaches are the road to Noel after the deadline to reach a negotiation on the trains that could have ended the Christmas strikes passed on Tuesday. This came about because on Sunday the RMT rejected an 8 per cent pay rise over two years by the Rail Delivery Group. Union boss Mick Lynch said: “If this plan was implemented, it would not only mean the loss of thousands of jobs but the use of unsafe practices would leave our railways chronically understaffed.” The BBC has all the details.

Industrial action starts from Tuesday to Saturday: The first 48-hour nationwide RMT walkout starts on Tuesday 13th and Wednesday 14th. There’s another on Friday 16th and Sunday 17th, which will also affect services across the UK. That’s adds up to a full week of chaos. Then comes the Christmas Eve walkout which runs until Tuesday 27th December. In January the strikes start again on Tuesday 3rd, Wednesday 4th and Friday 6th and Saturday 7th

Santa grounded: Over in the airports Father Christmas could find he’s stuck in the queue at border control. On Wednesday PA Media reported that UK Border Force, which checks passports on arrival, will strike for eight days, from Friday 23rd until Boxing Day and then again on Wednesday 28th to Saturday 31st. Manchester Airport has warned that flights will be cancelled.

Government action: On Thursday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman advised holidaymakers to “think carefully” before flying for Christmas – a warning that comes weeks even months too late after many travellers did think very carefully about flying over Christmas. She warned of severe disruption, adding: “I really want to urge people who have got plans to travel abroad to think carefully about their plans because they may well be impacted.” Sky News had the story. The Times reported that airlines have been told to cancel 30 per cent of flights to prevent chaos. If your airline is UK or EU-based, you will be entitled to another flight but not necessarily your money back says travel expert Simon Calder.

One more: Eurostar security staff walk out from next Friday for four days, which will affect services to the continent in the run-up to Christmas. The three other dates are Sunday 18 December, Thursday 22 December and Friday 23 December. Here’s the news in the Evening Standard.

How to get home for Christmas? With so much disruption on the planes and trains people will take to the roads, especially on Christmas Eve. The RAC has warned of heavy traffic and coach company Megabus says it’s putting on 1,000 extra seats. Also, don’t forget the Highways Agency is striking over Christmas with 12 days of industrial action starting on Friday 16th. This means if there are any accidents, the roads won’t be getting cleared quickly and so many could be brought to a standstill. Even if after all that, you decide to book a last minute flight from England to Scotland prices are sky high, with a British Airways flight from Heathrow to Aberdeen costing £262, according to the Independent. What a gift this all is this Christmas!

Quick escape: If you want to fly out fast from the UK, the experts at Which? found that London City Airport had the quickest security times at just 12 minutes 3 seconds. Leeds Bradford came out worse at 34.4 minutes and Heathrow was in the middle taking on average 20.2 minutes. 

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Discover the moon: When we think of Iceland, we think ice. We think cold and freezing. We’d pack thermals, scarfs, big jumpers, thick socks and a hot water bottle. But in June, in Akureyri, it’s green. It’s 17C. It’s summer. Basically forget Tenerife – here they have the midnight sun – that’s 24hr daylight. We wear our sunglasses all day long. Akureyri is a very good looking city, sitting on the waterfront with the white peaks of the Eyjafjörður fjord in the background. If you’re lucky (we weren’t) humpback whales will swim into the fjord. This place is a gem. It’s filled with unique volcanic landscape where Nasa astronauts train, there are natural thermal spas where the water is 40C; there are waterfalls, lava fields, puffins and a Eurovision museum. And all this before you have done anything like super Jeeping. Best of all, it’s just three hours from the UK. Did we mention there’s Icelandic fish and chips?

Let’s talk France:One must-see is the bustling city of Nantes for its art, gardens and the famous Les Machines de l’île, which reopened this year. And for an adventure, head west into the Loire-Atlantique filled with port towns from Le Croisic in Brittany down to Saint Gilles in the Vendee. For food, there’s everything you’d expect from French cuisine – with cheese, plenty of good wine (top tip: don’t miss the Crémant!!) 

Spread out the map: Just off the coast of Cannes in the warm seas of the Côte d’Azur is the Mediterranean’s first underwater museum. Just a short ferry ride, near the island of Sainte-Marguerite, best known for the prison which once held the Man in the Iron Mask, are six 10-tonne sculptures. If you can afford it, stay on the Boulevard de la Croisette where the champagne flows like water. 

Travelling back in time: Chalkmarks’ readers will remember back in May how thousands of travellers weren’t getting their passports returned within the government’s promised 10-week window, and so were missing their hols. The Government said during the pandemic people had left their passports to expire, and when the world reopened a large number of applications came all at once which caused a backlog. The Passport Office also had many staff still WFH. Today, seven months on, the National Audit Office found 360,000 holidaymakers were affected. They’ve urged the Home Office to do better in 2023! Here’s the write-up in the Guardian.

Speaking of Christmas: Get stuck in to the finest mulled wine and mince pies at the best Christmas markets this December. Which? magazine did the leg work and found that York’s St Nicholas Fair, with its wooden chalets and twinkling lights, was the nation’s favourite. Belfast came in second with its festive offerings of bratwurst and crocodile burgers! Edinburgh took third spot for its ice rink and Christmas Tree maze.

This is interesting: Cancel that trip to Norway or Iceland, you can see the Northern Lights right here in the UK. The cosmic light show has been strong this year in Scotland’s Cairngorms National Park. Here’s how to get there from Ireland Live.

 In case you don’t follow us on social media you really should. Here we are, here too and over here. Say hola muchacha! 

Onward!

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