EasyJet cancels more than 200 flights over weekend amid airport and Eurtotunnel travel chaos

Sharita J. Wilson

Travellers embarking on Easter trips faced chaos on Monday as more flights were cancelled by struggling airlines and cross-Channel rail services were hit by major delays.

Airlines are suffering from staff shortages related to coronavirus sickness, leading to flights being grounded.

Eurotunnel warned its vehicle-carrying Le Shuttle rail services from Folkestone, Kent to Calais, France were delayed by three hours due to “a train stopped temporarily in the tunnel”.

The travel disruption is affecting many families heading abroad for the Easter school holiday, which is the first since the UK’s coronavirus restrictions for international travellers were dropped.

EasyJet cancelled 62 flights scheduled for Monday, after axing at least 222 flights across Saturday and Sunday.

A spokesperson for the airline said: “As a result of the current high rates of Covid infections across Europe, like all businesses easyJet is experiencing higher than usual levels of employee sickness.”

The spokesperson added that the number of cancellations “represents a small proportion” of the total of 1,645 planned for Monday.

British Airways cancelled at least 115 flights to or from Heathrow Airport on Monday, although only a handful were last-minute cancellations caused by coronavirus-related staff shortages.

The total includes many flights axed due to the airline’s recent decision to reduce its schedule until the end of May due to rising coronavirus cases. It also suffered chaos on 30 March as flights were cancelled due to an IT meltdown.

Passengers at Heathrow, Manchester and Birmingham airports have reported long queues in recent days, with many taking to social media to warn fellow flyers.

One customer from north Warwickshire had her flight from Birmingham delayed by more than 12 hours.

“It’s not been a good day, I felt extremely stressed,” said Rebecca Young, 32. “I have to wait around until 9.50pm tonight. I got to the airport at 6.30am, 2.5 hours prior to my departure time… I kept asking one of the staff members whether I would make my flight, they just shrugged.”

 (PA Wire)

(PA Wire)

It comes after passengers were stuck in long queues at Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning as the Easter holidays got under way.

The airport attributed the congestion to Covid checks required by destination countries and “high passenger volumes”.

But there were also reports of staff shortages and problems with the e-gate passport checkpoints as travellers took to social media to air their frustrations, with some saying they had waited hours to take off.

Other travellers said several of the automatic e-gates, staffed by Border Force and used to process passengers, were not operating properly.

The Home Office has been contacted for comment.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: “Due to high passenger volumes and the Covid documentation checks still required by many end destinations, Terminal 2 departures has experienced some congestion today.

“Our teams are supporting our airline partners to get passengers away on their journeys as quickly as possible and we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.”

Manchester Airport has experienced similar problems in recent weeks as it has struggled to cope with delays due to increased traveller numbers amid staff shortages.

Some travellers landing also voiced complaints about extensive waits in the baggage reclaim halls.

 (PA Wire)

(PA Wire)

A spokesperson for Manchester Airport said passengers were being advised that “security queues may be longer than usual” and urged to arrive early for their flight.

They said: “We apologise to passengers whose experience at Manchester Airport has fallen short of the standards they expected.

“As we recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, our whole industry is facing staff shortages and recruitment challenges.

“As a result we are advising customers that security queues may be longer than usual, and we encourage them to arrive at the earliest time recommended by their airline.

“Due to the security checks and training associated with these roles, it takes time for people to be able to start work in our operation.

“That is why we are exploring a number of short-term measures to deliver the best possible service we can, such as the use of agency staff and different ways in which existing colleagues can support our operation.

“We are aware similar challenges are being faced by airlines and third parties, such as baggage handling agents, operating on our site.

“Together, we are working hard to deliver the best possible service we can in the circumstances, and to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.”

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