Families pile onto the roads and railways after day of airport chaos

Under starter’s orders! Families pile onto the roads and railways as half-term holiday getaway begins after day of queues at ferry terminals and cancellations at airports

  • Massive queues were seen on the roads today as holidaymakers shunned airport chaos across the UK
  • Hundreds of flight cancellations by easyJet on the eve of the half-term holidays following an IT crash 
  • Budget airline cancelled further 14 flights to and from Gatwick today after more than 200 yesterday
  • Plans of football fans hoping to reach Champions League Final in Paris tomorrow are also affected
  • Travellers describing scenes of chaos during and either side of the two hours when the IT failure hit
  • ** Are you caught up in disruption at Gatwick or elsewhere today? Please email: [email protected] **
  • Latest Platinum Jubilee news as the Queen celebrates 70 years of service

What’s causing the delays and chaos at airports? 

British Airways and easyJet have both been removing thousands of flights from schedules in recent months at Gatwick and Heathrow airports amid staff shortages.

The airlines say most travellers have been given at least a few weeks’ notice, although the situation this week has been compounded by an IT glitch affecting easyJet.

There are also issues recruiting for roles such as security staff, ground handlers and check-in staff which is seeing passengers advised to arrive much earlier than normal for their flights because they are facing long queues.

While many businesses in the aviation sector are struggling to rehire staff after many were let go during the pandemic due to a collapse in demand thanks to successive lockdowns, high levels of staff sickness for those who are still employed is also having an impact.

And as they continue to battle with a tight labour market that has more vacancies than job-seekers, airlines have not been able to recruit staff quickly enough after most foreign travel has been reopened over the last year – with the removal in restrictions both in the UK and abroad in recent months causing even greater demand.

The Unite union said there are ‘chronic staff shortages across the board’, and that ‘current pay and conditions in the industry are so poor that workers are voting with their feet’, adding: ‘It can only be resolved by offering higher wages and better working conditions for staff.’

Union officials added that many airport staff are being asked to work extra hours, and ‘relying on staff overtime to run the business can’t be a long-term solution’.

The situation is also not expected to improve any time soon – with the European Travel Commission saying air travel within Europe is set to recover to pre-pandemic levels this summer, although visitors from outside the region will likely be down 30 per cent from 2019.

Families are taking to the roads in their thousands as the half-term getaway for families in Britain ground to a halt today due to huge queues at airports across the country amid widespread staffing shortages.

Thousands piled onto the roads to try and avoid chaotic airports at the beginning of a half-term which also has the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bank holiday.

More than 30,000 easyJet passengers have been affected by hundreds of flight cancellations as airports in the UK are still struggling to recover from Covid restrictions and are struggling to hire enough staff to meet surging demand while Britain faces a tight labour market with more vacancies than job-seekers. 

Compounding the problem, an IT crash hitting easyJet left the holiday plans of families in the lurch. The airline cancelled 14 more flights to and from London Gatwick Airport today after calling off more than 200 yesterday.

Liverpool football fans hoping to reach the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Paris tomorrow were also faced chaotic journeys after flights to the French capital were axed from Manchester and Bristol.

Other fliers suffered more than 360 delays with routes such as Belfast to Corfu and Liverpool to Dalaman also affected by the disruption, which poses a serious threat to families’ half-term holidays if the issue reoccurs.

Those jetting off from Gatwick, Bristol and Manchester airports have been among the worst hit, with travellers describing scenes of chaos during and either side of the two hours when the IT failure hit yesterday at 1pm.

There were also huge queues Luton and Heathrow this morning, and the Unite union warned that the problems could continue next week and even get worse during the summer holidays because of staff shortages.

Meanwhile traffic was building up on major routes including massive queues on the approach to the Port of Dover in Kent as families heading to the Continent were left standing outside their cars as they waited. 

P&O Ferries warned of ‘heavy traffic’, adding: ‘If you are booked to travel today please allow at least 2.5 hours to clear all security checks. Rest assured, if you miss your sailing, you’ll be on the first available once at check-in.’

The RAC said drivers are planning on making 17.8million leisure trips this weekend as schools break for half-term ahead of the Jubilee bank holiday weekend. Saturday is expected to be the busiest day with 4.6million trips.

Data from transport experts Inrix said traffic hotspots will be the M1 southbound between junctions 16 and 6 this evening, the M25 anticlockwise between junctions 17 and J12 tomorrow morning and the A720 west between the A1 and the M60 clockwise between junction 7 and 18 on Sunday afternoon. 

It comes as the Unite trade union said delays at airports over Easter will be repeated during next week and will be worse during the summer due to staff shortages. It also claimed staff were being urged to work more overtime.

The union’s general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘During the pandemic, when airline operators, and others in aviation, slashed jobs to boost corporate profits, we warned this corporate greed would cause chaos in the industry. The aftermath of mass sackings is now chronic staff shortages across the board. 

‘Aviation chiefs need to come clean with the public. This is a crisis of their making. We are determined that workers will not pay for this crisis. Current pay and conditions in the industry are so poor that workers are voting with their feet. It can only be resolved by offering higher wages and better working conditions for staff.’

National officer Oliver Richardson added: ‘Unite will not accept our members being forced by their employers to work excessive overtime. Relying on staff overtime to run the business can’t be a long-term solution. Until the sector addresses the fundamental structural problems it has, delays, cancellations and chaos will continue.’

Traffic builds up on the M25 motorway near Chertsey in Surrey as the half term holiday getaway begins

It was not much better than the airports at Dover, as traffic including those heading to Paris for the Champions League final built

Freight and holiday traffic queues at the Port of Dover in Kent as the half-term in which the Jubilee will be celebrated begins

GATWICK – Huge lines of passengers at London Gatwick Airport today as people wait to check-in for British Airways flights

HEATHROW – Queues of passengers at London Heathrow Airport this morning as families go on their half-term holidays

GATWICK – Passenger Dave Ingham tweeted this photograph to @AirMalta this morning, saying: ‘Guess it’s all messed up at Gatwick? Wrong gate on board, one person at check in, moved gate twice. Delayed. All for a £5 voucher?’

LUTON – Huge queues at Luton Airport this morning, with Paul Modley tweeting: ‘Welcome to priority check-in for Wizz Air’

MANCHESTER – One Twitter user posted this photo of queues at Manchester Airport Terminal 2 at 3am this morning

HEATHROW – Air passenger Mariam Tadros tweeted this picture of queues at Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Two this morning

Travel expert Simon Calder told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘Passengers who woke up this morning, early flights to places like Milan and Mallorca, we’ve seen another 14 cancellations of flights to and from Gatwick Airport.

‘That’s on top of 200-plus flights cancelled because of the IT glitch yesterday which means a total of 30,000 easyJet passengers waking up this morning not where they wanted to be at all.

Britain’s drivers to make 18m getaway car journeys

Britain’s drivers are planning 17.8million getaway car trips as the schools break up for half-term and preparations get underway for the Jubilee bank holiday weekend

Research from RAC Breakdown suggests motorways and major A-roads will be busiest tomorrow with an estimated 4.6million trips set to be taken, followed by today and Sunday with 4million journeys each day.

Drivers expect to take an additional 5.3m at some point between tomorrow and the end of the weekend, according to its survey based on the travel plans of 1,425 UK drivers.

Data from transport experts Inrix said traffic hotspots will be the M1 southbound between junctions 16 and 6 this evening, the M25 anticlockwise between junctions 17 and J12 tomorrow morning and the A720 west between the A1 and the M60 clockwise between junction 7 and 18 on Sunday afternoon.

RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘All eyes might be turning to the long Jubilee bank holiday just a week away, but before then we have the start of half-term which will no doubt see major routes to holiday destinations start to clog up. Drivers can beat the worst of the queues by planning the time of their trips carefully – an early start is always best or, failing that, driving at dusk if that’s a feasible option.’

And Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at Inrix, said: ‘Even with fuel prices continuing to rise, we still expect travellers to hit the road during the half-term break. Drivers should expect congestion on major roads around big cities and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.’

‘Lots of pressure on finding seats and ways of getting people where they want to be. Not least there were some really long-haul cancellations – for example Belfast to Corfu, Liverpool to Dalaman, Gatwick to Hurghada in Egypt.

‘So, the airline has to find an alternative flight or people will need to book themselves on other airlines. EasyJet really has to try to get you there, and of course pay for hotels and meals while you’re waiting. On top of that, cash compensation.’

He added that London Heathrow was ‘very, very calm’ this morning, adding: ‘That’s partly because British Airways has cancelled more than 120 short-haul European and domestic flights today. But those passengers were warned at least a week or two ahead, so at least they’ve been able to make alternative arrangements.’

There was confusion yesterday when easyJet suggested it would not be giving customers compensation because the IT failure – which began affecting flights from about 1pm yesterday – was not its fault.

It told customers the failure was ‘outside of our control and is considered to be an extraordinary circumstance.’ But it later U-turned and said the statement was sent out in error.

Passengers affected by cancellations are entitled to £220 for flights under 1,500km (932 miles) and £350 for longer trips.

The airline is also supposed to offer alternative flights, even if with a rival carrier, to get travellers to their destination as soon as possible. Any hotel and meal bills paid for as a result should also be reimbursed.

However, airlines only need to give compensation if they were at fault.

Meanwhile Liverpool supporters travelling to the Champions League final and families embarking on half-term getaways faced long queues at the Port of Dover.

Thousands of fans descended on the Kent port this morning to board cross-Channel ferries en route to Paris for tomorrow’s match.

Liam Devlin, who was among those queuing in the port, wrote on Twitter: ‘Absolute chaos at the Port of Dover.

‘Taking around three hours to get through to the gates to even board any ferry, double the amount of time they advise. No organisation whatsoever. Shambles.’

Suleman Qureshi posted: ‘The queues at dover are ridiculous as expected. The reds have taken over!’

DOVER – Freight and holiday traffic queues at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning as the half-term holiday getaway begins

DOVER – Freight and holiday traffic queues at the Port of Dover in Kent this morning as people head on their half-term holidays

Traffic builds up on the M25 motorway near Chertsey in Surrey today as people go on their half-term holidays

Another fan wrote: ‘Three hours in a queue at Dover after driving down on no sleep is comparable to the pain of childbirth. Glad we’re a day early.’

Travel expert NICKY KELVIN reveals what you should do to mitigate the impact of travel chaos 

By NICKY KELVIN

With more travel chaos developing across the UK, certain airports are suffering long queues and many flights are getting cancelled. 

To combat these problems, we would recommend giving yourself plenty of time to get to the airport, and to get through the different procedures at the airport. 

We’re seeing traffic jams get into airports such as Heathrow, one example of delays that passengers are not anticipating. 

We would recommend where possible taking public transport to airports, rather than trying to drive, which can cause additional stress and delays. 

To mitigate queues at security, many airports sell access to priority security lines for around £5, which is a solid investment to save potentially an hour or more standing in line.

Before heading to the airport, stay up to date with the latest information. 

Check airport arrival and departure boards online, and keep an eye on your airline’s website to ensure that your flight is still proceeding as normal. 

If your flight is cancelled or delayed, you may be entitled to compensation and depending on the circumstances, you should conduct proper research to find out what money you may be owed. 

Finally, for an expert level hack, we would recommend using Flight Radar 24 which allows you to track the exact aircraft that will be flying your route. 

You’re then able to see where this plane is and whether it has made it out of its previous destination. 

Having this information will put you ahead of other passengers (and potentially even some airline staff!) to help you determine whether you will be encountering any delays ahead of your trip.

Nicky Kelvin is head of travel website The Points Guy UK 

There is also high demand for sailings from families embarking on trips to the continent for half-term.

The port advised passengers to ‘pack adequate supplies including food and water’ as it is expecting ‘a very busy week ahead’.

Ferry firm Irish Ferries warned customers to ‘expect delays of up to three hours at port security and check-in’.

P&O Ferries wrote that traffic on Jubilee Way, a key road used to access the port, is ‘at a standstill’ and there are ‘also queues on the A20 on the approach to Dover’.

It added: ‘Traffic is expected to remain heavy today.’

Passengers who miss their sailing will be allowed to travel on the next available service.

Another operator, DFDS, wrote on Twitter: ‘We are aware of our lovely customers queuing in the port. We’ll accommodate you on the next available departure.’

Liverpool John Lennon Airport was also busy with supporters flying to Paris.

There are scheduled to be 24 flights from the airport to the French capital this week with capacity for a total of 4,674 passengers, according to aviation data firm Cirium. Saturday will be the busiest day, with 11 flights.

Just two flights operated from Liverpool to Paris last week.

Also today, as concerns mounted over road congestion this weekend, RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘All eyes might be turning to the long Jubilee bank holiday just a week away, but before then we have the start of half-term which will no doubt see major routes to holiday destinations start to clog up. 

‘Drivers can beat the worst of the queues by planning the time of their trips carefully – an early start is always best or, failing that, driving at dusk if that’s a feasible option.

‘Motorists can cut the chances of becoming a breakdown statistic by completing some quick pre-journey checks – check your oil and coolant levels, the latter is especially important if the weather warms up, ensure your tyres have plenty of tread and are inflated to the correct pressures, and top up your screenwash. 

‘If you’re making a longer drive, keep yourself alert and everyone in your vehicle comfortable by planning in regular breaks.’

And Bob Pishue, transportation analyst at Inrix, said: ‘Even with fuel prices continuing to rise, we still expect travellers to hit the road during the half-term break. 

‘Drivers should expect congestion on major roads around big cities and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.’

British Airways and easyJet have both been removing thousands of flights from schedules due to staff shortages in recent months. 

The airlines say the vast majority of travellers were given at least a few weeks’ notice.

This month BA announced it will have cancelled 16,000 scheduled flights by the autumn. BA was also hit by IT issues in February that caused the cancellation of its short-haul flights from Heathrow for a morning.

HEATHROW – One Twitter user at Heathrow Airport this morning said: ‘Worst welcome to LHR T3 this morning, trying to take daughter to airport, congestion so bad no time to even have a farewell coffee … & we’d left 3.5 hours. Grim start to her holiday’

HEATHROW – Heavy traffic on the M4 spur down into London Heathrow Airport this morning as families go on their holidays

The latest disruption has left holidaymakers stranded abroad and complaining about the lack of notice they were given.

WizzAir pilot loses his temper over tannoy after ‘SEVEN-hour’ runway delay at Gatwick

One holidaymaker caught the moment a frustrated WizzAir pilot ranted over the tannoy while they were stationary on the runway of Gatwick Airport during a reported seven-hour-delay.

‘I don’t need this!’, he told the exhausted holidaymakers, who were stuck in their seats waiting to set off to their destination of Larnaca in Cyprus.

Ryan air would never 😔 #wizzair #karen #travel #airports #fyp #bags #fly #gatwickairport

Passenger Hannah Mace filmed the moment in disbelief and uploaded the video to TikTok.

‘You know, I don’t need this, the crew doesn’t need this. We are doing what we can to get you out of here. It’s out of my control. Completely out of my control.

‘We’re doing everything we can. If you want to get off, I’ll let you off, no problem.’

A passenger on a WizzAir flight to Cyprus recorded the moment the pilot lost his cool and started ranting over the tannoy during a ‘seven-hour-delay’ at Gatwick Airport

Devan Lonsdale, 24, from Durham, was due to travel with eight friends from Manchester Airport for a holiday that had already been cancelled due to Covid.

‘We left Newcastle at 6am and got to the airport for 10am as our flight was 1.20pm,’ he said. ‘We were called to the gate at 12.35pm and the gate was due to close at 12.50pm but at 1pm it hadn’t budged.

‘People started walking off one by one to be told that the flight was cancelled and no replacement, so we were stuck in Manchester.

‘We’ve had to pay for hotel etc in Manchester and are now going to go back home tomorrow – (we) have looked for alternate flights to Prague and other locations for a reasonable price so we could make use of our days off work we have used, but found nothing but flights £500+ with multiple stops.

‘Only time will tell what easyJet will say and how much money we will get but we will no doubt lose money overall and a four-day holiday.’

One woman claimed that would-be passengers were told their flight had been cancelled just 10 minutes before they were due to board the plane.

Others have been stuck at some of the UK’s biggest airports, including Gatwick and Stansted.

Both Edinburgh and Luton have seen seven arrivals and seven departures cancelled, while nine flights from Manchester have been affected.

One traveller caught up in the chaos at Manchester Airport said on Twitter: ‘Armed police everywhere, flights grounded, @easyJet not giving any information to anyone. Airport staff not sure, message keeps changing, being escorted away from the gates.

‘I don’t like to be a pessimist but I think we’re not making it to Italy today.’ 

Another posted: ‘Top work easyJet leaving 200 plus people stranded until Monday in Pisa due to a cancelled flight.’ A third said: ‘Thanks @easyJet for cancelling our flight from Prague to Manchester 2 hours before!

‘We have had to pay for a hotel tonight, another flight tomorrow and all our expenses. No explanation given and zero help from ground crew!’

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘Thousands of passengers are facing huge inconvenience and many will be left out of pocket by this IT failure.

‘Unhelpfully, some passengers seem to have been advised by easyJet that this disruption is out of its control and an extraordinary circumstance, but the problem appears to be its own IT system so customers are likely to be due compensation and should lodge a claim.

‘EasyJet passengers have faced significant disruption in recent weeks, including hundreds of cancellations, and we’ve heard from passengers who complain the airline is disregarding consumer rights.

‘Passengers need an aviation regulator with improved powers to enforce these rights and the Civil Aviation Authority should be given the ability to issue direct fines on airlines when they play fast and loose with the rules.’

An easyJet spokesman said: ‘easyJet can confirm that the earlier IT systems issues have now been rectified.

‘Unfortunately, they resulted in some cancellations earlier today and while we expect to operate most of our remaining flying programme some may still be subject to some disruption in the coming hours.’

This month it emerged the airline was stripping seats out of some of its planes so it can fly with less crew amid a staff shortage crisis, which has also hit BA after both airlines fired thousands of staff during the pandemic.

The budget carrier has removed the back row – which includes six seats – on its fleet of Airbus A319 aircraft for the summer season.

It means these planes will be able to fly with three cabin crew rather than four as the number of seats will drop from 156 to 150.

Aviation safety rules stipulate that there must be a cabin crew member for every 50 physical seats installed on a plane. It means flights will still meet Civil Aviation Authority regulations on the required number of crew.

** Are you caught up in disruption at Gatwick or elsewhere today? Please email: [email protected] ** 

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