Jet lag! Travellers face 31 days of strike chaos at Heathrow this summer
Chalkmarks: Santander, Spain, June 2023

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 9th June 2023

HERE comes a weekend to remember. It’s going to be hotter in the UK than in Ibiza this weekend. Did we mention we were in Ibiza earlier this year? Here are the pix to prove it. It’s a beautiful little island in the Med. We could rave about it all day but it’s a big-budget destination and this week we have to make space for Benidorm, a low-budget holiday hotspot. And newsflash: Benidorm couldn’t be more different to Ibiza. We were there last weekend delving into its food, culture and history. Lol – just kidding. There is none! The best dishes on the Costa Blanca come straight out of the fryer. At 10am in the Old Town holidaymakers tuck into a full English with a pint of beer. Then they’ll head down to the beach for a snooze on a sun bed. Lunch will be pizza and ice cream. The best bit? You can have the same for dinner followed by more drinks and a sing-song in the evening. If that isn’t a busy day in the sun, we don’t know what is. Take a break from the old routine with this week’s travel headlines.

Are you ready to travel?

Line up nicely: Kicking off on the front pages yesterday The Times reported: “Summer holidays hit by biggest strikes in Heathrow’s history”, and also the Daily Express splashed: “Airport strikes threaten ‘summer of strife’”. This is the news that more than 2,000 security staff will go on strike at the UK’s biggest airport for 31 days this summer. The first walkout starts on Saturday 24th June and the last ends on Sunday 27th August. Expect long queues and last-minute cancellations!

Heathrow crisis: The Unite Union has planned its strikes during the busiest time of the year for the UK’s biggest airport, which will hit the school summer holidays, and take place across eight weekends, in June, July and August. The Daily Mail has a useful calendar of all the dates.

On the agenda: Better pay for staff. Unite claims security workers at Heathrow are paid less than at other UK airports. They have turned down a 10.1 per cent pay offer. On Twitter Unite said: “Unite is putting Heathrow Airport on notice that strike action at the airport will continue until it makes a fair pay offer to its workers. Make no mistake, our members will receive the union’s unflinching support in this dispute.” Union boss Sharon Graham added: “This is an incredibly wealthy company, which this summer is anticipating bumper profits and an executive pay bonanza”.

Over in Terminals 3 and 5: The walkouts will affect up to 4.4 million passengers on 20,000 flights leaving from Heathrow’s Terminals 3 and 5. Some of the airlines impacted include British Airways, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Emirates, Qatar Airways, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic. Speaking to Sky News, travel expert Simon Calder said there was no word yet from the airlines regarding contingency plans or cancellations.

Back of the queue: It’s passengers who will be caught in the middle. Speaking to BBC News, Which? magazine editor Rory Borland warns travellers might not be entitled to compensation as strike action is considered an “extraordinary circumstance”.

Top tip: Use a travel agent when booking. Chalkmarks has heard that many complaints after delays and cancellations come from passengers who booked direct with the airline. But if you use a travel agent you’re in a stronger position. When things go wrong, they tend to do the calling and the rearranging for you. They are responsible for ensuring your holiday takes off, and they know when it’s time to request compensation. They advise that often travellers have a knee-jerk reaction when things go wrong and demand an immediate refund – but this often only benefits the travel company. If you take a refund in the heat of the moment while abroad, you risk being left to find your own way home, which can take much longer and can cost much more. If you stay with the airline or operator, they are legally responsible for you until you get home. Once safely back, you can look at compensation.

Good news: If you are booked to fly during a weekday you are less likely to be affected by the Heathrow walkouts. Also, if you’re travelling from Terminals 2 or 4, your fights won’t be disrupted. But, if you have yet to book a holiday you can avoid Heathrow altogether and fly instead from Gatwick, Stansted, Manchester or any other UK airport. Better still, you could ditch the plane and take a train or a ferry across to France or Spain this year.

Speaking of Which? The consumer magazine’s 2023 customer survey ranked Wizz Air as the worst short-haul airline, with Jet2 taking the crown as the best yet again. Explaining its success Which? said: “Its five-star rating for customer service is exceptional for any airline, but especially one that offers budget fares. Crucially, given the disruption which has become common in air travel lately, Jet2 reliably looks after its customers.” Explaining why Wizz Air was named the worst, it said: “Unfortunately, it’s achieved its growth by becoming a kind of mini-me Ryanair. It was also accused of having a similar attitude when things go wrong, with almost half of respondents saying it had no staff available during delays. That’s a big problem when you consider just how often these happened.” It added: “At current levels of service and comfort, its new long-haul flights to the Middle East and Asia are frankly unthinkable.” Here’s the Which? full report.

More turbulence: Another reason to fly less came this week from scientists at the University of Reading who confirmed that planes are experiencing more turbulence due to climate change. They say flights across the Atlantic – one of the planet’s busiest routes – have seen an increase in shaking by 55 per cent. They explain this is because climate change has increased temperatures, which can disrupt the jet stream suddenly causing the plane to move around more. “My message from this is we need to do something otherwise flights will become more turbulent in future [as global heating increases further],” said Professor Paul Williams. Sky News has the news.

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!

Forget the Med: With many Britons admitting they don’t like being hot on holiday, why not look up and head to Northern Europe this summer. Think Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden or even Iceland. We headed to Stockholm for a mild summer getaway!

Discover the moon: When we think of Iceland, we think ice. We think cold and freezing. But we were here in June and it’s green. It’s 17C. It’s summer! Plus here they have the midnight sun – that’s 24hr daylight. We need our sunglasses on all day long. We travelled to the northern city of Akureyri – situated on the waterfront with the white peaks of the Eyjafjörður fjord in the background. 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’s waterfalls, lava fields, puffins and a Eurovision museum. In the winter it becomes the best spot for skiing and seeing the Northern Lights. And all this before you have done anything interesting, like super Jeeping. If you’re very lucky (we weren’t) you’ll see humpback whales. But there’s more. Best of all it’s just three hours from the UK. Did I mention there’s Icelandic fish and chips? Check out our pix of the trip.

Incredible save: On Monday a mystery donor came forward with enough cash to keep four visitor centres – Bakewell, Edale, Castleton and Upper Derwent – open in Derbyshire’s Peak District. The kind act saves 65 jobs. Phil Mulligan, boss of Peak District National Park Authority, said: “Whilst we are incredibly grateful to the donor for their generous offer allowing us to continue visitor centre operations for up to another three years, our deep-seated financial challenges as an organisation do remain.” The BBC had the story. 

Happy birthday from Chalkmarks: Gatwick turns 65 today!

This time last year: Hoping to travel this summer make sure you’re ready Bristol Airport became overcrowded from 4am. The i Paper reported that groups of men on stag dos had created an “awful atmosphere” in the terminal with bars running out of beer by 6am … elsewhere easyJet cancelled 130 flights, which affected 10,000 passengers … Simon Calder  named the three European airports facing the most cancellations as Heathrow, Amsterdam and Gatwick … June was the month of national rail strikes and London Underground walkouts … Norway opened its £520m art museum in Oslo – the largest in Nordic region – which included the iconic masterpiece The Scream by Edvard Munch … Sir Richard Branson launched a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to Austin, the capital of Texas – voted the number one best place to live in the US in 2019 … American travellers were back in the UK and visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace Stratford-upon-Avon.

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