Holiday starts with rain forecast and flights threatened

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THE bank holiday weekend started yesterday in thoroughly traditional manner - a strike at passport offices, the prospect of a one-day stoppage by airline cabin crew and a wet weather forecast, writes Martin Whitfield.

Flights to a dozen European destinations are likely to be disrupted tomorrow after British Airways staff at Gatwick voted 175-35 to stage a protest strike over the threat of lower pay and worse conditions.

British Airways provided a special number (0345 222111) for passengers to call who are booked to travel on flights from Gatwick to Bordeaux, Copenhagen, Faro (Portugal), Frankfurt, Geneva, Genoa, Madrid, Malaga, Bergamo (near Milan) and Naples.

George Ryde, national officer of the Transport and General Workers' Union, called on BA to drop its plans. 'British Airways has miscalculated badly by assuming that our cabin crews would quietly accept their work being done on worse pay and conditions,' he said.

Yesterday, workers at the six regional passport offices in London, Belfast, Glasgow, Liverpool, Newport and Peterborough staged a one-day strike over plans for 'market testing'.

Terry Adams, national officer of the Civil and Public Services Association, said union members feared the exercise would lead to eventual job losses. A similar threat also led to a walk-out by 1,700 Inland Revenue staff at offices in Telford, Worthing and Basingstoke.

Today is expected to provide the best weather of the holiday weekend in the South with traffic busy on the main routes. Patchy rain is expected to spread from the west to most areas over the weekend. Temperatures will drop by as much as 10 degrees. Monday will be generally overcast with the best of the sunshine in the North and West.