Christmas travel chaos: How will trains and flights be impacted this December?

christmas train strikes - Hollie Adams/Getty Images
christmas train strikes - Hollie Adams/Getty Images

Strike action is threatening to cause misery for thousands of Britons travelling during the festive period.

Here's everything you need to know about how trains and flights will be affected.

Will I be able to get home for Christmas?

Yes. But it is likely to be an extremely stressful process, even with painstaking planning.

It all depends on how far you are travelling and what alternatives means of transport there are.

The trains will be significantly disrupted.

Students returning from university will be hit by strikes on Friday, Dec 16 and Saturday, Dec 17, for instance. Workers hoping to see loved ones will suffer from action on Saturday, Dec 24 and it is likely that trains on Friday 23 Dec will be packed as a result.

On strike days, just one in five services will run and the last train will be around 6pm.

The impact on flights is less clear.

Airlines say that because they were not planning to run pre-pandemic flight numbers, airports should still be able to cope without cancelling flights.

But this does not mean pain-free travelling. Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, said: "If they go ahead with those strikes there will be undeniable, serious disruption caused to many thousands of people who have holiday plans.”

Train strikes, delays and cancellations

Nationwide RMT strikes:

  • Tuesday December 13

  • Wednesday December 14

  • Friday December 16

  • Saturday December 17

  • Saturday December 24

  • Monday December 26

  • Tuesday December 27

  • Tuesday January 3

  • Wednesday January 4

  • Friday January 6

  • Saturday January 7

There are also a series of further regional rail strikes on other dates in December.

Regional strikes:

  • Sunday 11 December - RMT Avanti West Coast strike

  • Monday 12 December - RMT Avanti West Coast strike

  • Friday December 23 - Unite strike impacting East Midlands Railways

  • Saturday December 24 - Unite strike impacting East Midlands Railways

First and last train information

Rail workers are due to walk out from Christmas Eve to December 27, although no trains typically run on Christmas Day and only limited services run on Boxing Day. However, it will mean tens of thousands of people planning festive get-aways could be left stranded around the country, and unable to spend the holidays with their families.

Outside of the Christmas weekend walkouts, on other strike days, it is expected that just one in five trains will run and nearly all operators will be impacted.

On the days following a strike – so-called “shoulder days” – timetables will be roughly 60pc of normal.

Avanti has said it expects its services to be significantly reduced on December 11/12 due to industrial action. East Midlands Railway has warned services will be extremely limited with last departures by 4.30pm on strike days.

Airport strikes, delays and cancellations: international and domestic flights


  • Heathrow

  • Gatwick

  • Manchester

  • Birmingham

  • Glasgow

  • Cardiff

  • Newhaven port


  • Dec 23

  • Dec 24

  • Dec 25

  • Dec 26

  • Dec 28

  • Dec 29

  • Dec 30

  • Dec 31

What do airlines say?

So far, not a lot. The sentiment is that although cancellations will not be rife, disruption is going to be significant.

  • British Airways - is yet to comment. Sources said it was hopeful that disruption would be kept to a minimum.

  • EasyJet - said it was "too early" to say what impact the strikes would have on its flight schedules, but said it was planning to operate as normal. "As you would expect, we are in talks with the individual airports on their contingency plans.”

  • Jet2 - “We very much intend to operate our full schedule of flights.”

  • Virgin Atlantic - said it was working to “minimise disruption".

Which airports are due to be busiest?