FAMILIES are facing more travel chaos as they attempt to go on holiday for the Easter break, due to cancelled flights and ferry delays.
Brits trying to get to Dover have been stuck in two-hour queues at the port, passengers at Manchester Airport are seeing huge problems at security and Heathrow alone has seen more than 100 BA flights cancelled this morning.
The problems are the result of a perfect storm of issues, including Covid sickness, staff shortages, IT problems, bad weather and the mass redundancies at P&O Ferries.
A number of airports both in the UK and at top tourist destinations abroad have struggled to cope with the surge in holiday traffic over recent weeks.
Recruitment at airports and airlines, which haemorrhaged staff during mass border closures in first two years of the pandemic, hasn’t yet caught up with renewed interest in travel.
According to Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, UK airports need to recruit tens of thousands of staff, with Heathrow alone needing 12,000 staff.
Manchester Airport has blamed their issues this weekend on staffing issues, when holidaymakers were seen “jumping over barriers” and trays piling up at security scanners.
One traveller said she spent one and a half hours in a queue to check-in, two hours waiting for security, and a five-hour flight delay.
And today, passengers said there were even more queues at security while problems were also at the check in gates.
One person wrote: “Security line at Manchester Airport, now more than one hour. Unacceptable. Covering half the hall.”
Another person said: “Arrived at the airport at 6.15am for a 9.20am flight, 3 hours of a complete nightmare. Never will I or everyone else I spoke to use Man airport again. Awful experience!”
A Manchester Airport spokesperson confirmed that a shortage in staff was the problem, due to huge demand for holidays.
Airport staffing issues have been compounded by a number of cancelled flights by UK airlines.
EasyJet grounded hundreds of flights yesterday due to staff absence because of Covid, with around 100 more today.
A spokesman for easyJet said on Sunday: “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.”
And British Airways has reduced its schedule between now and the end of May to try and avoid more travel problems, after thousands of passengers had their flight cancelled due to IT issues.
The UK flag carrier cancelled more than 100 flights today, due to the reduction of their schedule, as well as a number of flights still being suspended due to Covid rules in place, particularly to destinations in Asia such as Tokyo.
Five cancellations at short notice were caused by staff shortages because of Covid, including to Paris and Oslo.
The cancellations follow a record 4.9million people testing positive for Covid in the UK last week.
And it isn’t just the airports facing problems – the suspension of P&O services saw queues up to nine hours over the weekend coming into Dover.
Richard Ballantyne, head of the British Ports Association, told the BBC: ‘Yesterday (Saturday) we were up to nine-hour queues outside the port.”
This has had a knock-on effect for travellers today, with bad weather also adding to the delays.
Drivers claim they have been stuck in two-hour queues this morning.
One person wrote on Twitter: “Update… almost two hours after entering Dover I’m almost at check in.”
And even the Eurotunnel has been hit with delays up to three hours after a train stopped in the tunnel.
A spokesperson said: “Due to a train stopped temporarily in the tunnel, our service is currently experiencing delays.”
The issues aren’t just a UK issue; at Dublin airport this weekend travellers complained of missed flights because of lengthy queues at airport security.
A spokesperson has blamed the issues on a struggle to rehire staff after a number of employees were let go during the pandemic.