The busiest winter day in history for UK travellers is forecast for Friday 22 December, based on research by The Independent.
All the big British airports are expecting their busiest-ever Christmas and New Year. But on the railways, the festive season is complicated by no fewer than 10 strikes planned up to the end of the year.
Europe’s busiest airport, Heathrow, is expecting almost a quarter of a million people to pass through on 22 December, with 130,000 departing – a rate of almost two per second during the airport’s opening hours.
Passport control at Heathrow will be most stretched on Tuesday 2 January, with 127,000 arrivals.
At Gatwick, the outbound crowds will be also biggest on Friday 22 December, with almost 67,000 passengers expected to jet off from the airport – equivalent to 46 per minute, around the clock.
Manchester airport will be extremely busy on both of next two Fridays: 22 and 29 December. Top destinations include Dublin, Dubai and Amsterdam. But the airport, Britain’s third busiest, has received criticism for its security queues.
Passenger Paul Williams tweeted on Tuesday: “Unfortunately I’m flying through the total chaos of T1 again, when will you open more lanes to get people through it’s the week of Christmas!”
Manchester is conducting a Twitter campaign aimed at speeding up security queues over Christmas. “Unzip, unfasten and unbutton your big winter coats whilst queueing up,” passengers are told.
The airport also advises removing jewellery before the check with the line: “Take off the bling to avoid the ping.” But it adds: “If you want to come to the airport dressed as Father Christmas, that’s OK.”
Its sister airport, Stansted, is unusual in that its busiest day for departures is Saturday 23 December – immediately followed by the two quietest days, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Returning to the Essex airport, 2 January will be the peak day.
More than one million passengers are expected to pass through Edinburgh airport in December, making it the busiest winter month on record.
Luton airport is expecting to be very busy with outbound passengers on Wednesday and Thursday, building to a peak on Friday 22 December. The airport is even specifying the busiest hour for departures: between 8am and 9am. The busiest day for arrivals, and overall, is Friday 29 December, with 4-5pm as the peak hour.
On Eurostar trains from London St Pancras through the Channel Tunnel to Paris and Brussels, Friday 22 December will be extremely busy, with over 34,000 passengers booked.
Unlike most domestic trains, Eurostar will be running on Boxing Day, when it will carry almost 30,000 people. The busiest day over the festive season is Friday 29 December, with more than 35,000 passengers.
Virgin Trains is expecting to cancel around a third of its services on 22 December because of a second strike by onboard and station staff in a dispute over parity with drivers.
The train operator is allowing passengers booked on Virgin Trains-only journeys on Friday to switch to any other train from now until the scheduled departure. Virgin Trains declined to say when it expects its services to be most crowded.
Strikes will hit travellers on CrossCountry trains on 23 and 24 December, with staff taking action in a dispute about rostering. Early and late trains face cancellation, as do some services in Scotland. Stoppages are also planned on CrossCountry on 27 and 31 December.
The train operator is telling passengers: “Although alternative travel arrangements will be prepared, we expect all our services, and any replacement bus services, to be very busy.”
Strikes are also planned on Greater Anglia on 27 December and on South Western Railway to and from London Waterloo on New Year’s Eve, in a dispute over the role of guards.
Almost all UK trains are suspended on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. National Express is laying on extra coaches on 25 December, and is expecting Boxing Day to be very busy.
The bus company predicts Wednesday 27 December will see the highest-ever number of travellers on its services on a single day, with 76,000 expected.
Original article on independent