Last-minute flight cancellations, waits of up to ‘three hours’ for luggage and long queues – these are just some of the difficulties a number of holidaymakers have faced at UK airports this week .
And according to experts, we won’t see an end to these delays anytime soon.
Good Morning Britain travel expert Simon Calder said this week that those planning to travel over the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend will face similar problems to those faced last weekend – with problems which are expected to worsen during the summer school vacation period.
On June 1, UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps hosted a meeting with senior aviation officials to discuss the “exceptional disruption” seen at UK airports, Wales Online reports.
In what was described as a ‘productive’ meeting with airports, airlines and ground handling companies, Mr Shapps highlighted his concern that airline passengers were being ‘unfairly sold tickets to a vacation they can’t go on”.
Such was the case with a group of devastated holidaymakers in Cardiff, whose TUI flight was canceled as they boarded a plane destined for Tenerife.
Swansea’s Jonny McClelland alongside his wife Jemma planned to take their daughters – seven-year-old Nuala and five-year-old Connie on their “first overseas trip”.
However, it wasn’t supposed to be as their flight, which was due to take off at 12.15pm, was delayed for an hour before they were told that their trip to the Spanish island was in fact canceled due to operational issues.
“So we were in line, and we were literally at the cabin door, when my phone rang and it was a message from TUI,” Jonny explained.
“It basically said, ‘Your flight is cancelled, your vacation package is cancelled’. The stewardess looked shocked, because she didn’t even know that. The pilot didn’t know that.”
Despite looking for alternative flights which “were not feasible”, Jonny and his family decided to return home. According to Jonny, his two young daughters were left “crying all the way home”.
Meanwhile, holidaymaker Huw Davies, from Porthcawl, boarded the flight to Tenerife from the airport with 11 other family members for a ‘special holiday’ for his terminally ill daughter.
He said the sudden news of the cancellation left them “absolutely devastated” and his children and grandchildren were in tears. “It was a family outing for my daughter who has terminal cancer. It would be her last family vacation – and we just got kicked off that flight,” the 59-year-old said.
In response, TUI apologized for the cancellation which it said was due to operational issues, adding that customers affected by flight cancellations will receive a full refund for their holidays within 14 days.
Similar complications took place at Manchester Airport. Holidaymakers have experienced long delays and queues, with many sharing their frustration on social media.
At around 2.30am, @RuinousHugh said he had been waiting for two hours to collect his luggage at Terminal 1. ‘Why the hell can’t you sort this out?’ he tweeted at Manchester Airport.
Philip Bennett also tweeted a photo of a crowded baggage claim room in Terminal 3. He said: “Baggage claim Manchester Airport Terminal 3. 3.15 a.m. People waiting over three hours for their luggage. Shocking. Not an employee in sight. Welcome to Britain.”
They also reported queues stretching in parking lots, missing luggage spotted 1,300 miles away, police rescues after flights failed to take off and even food shortages for passengers. actually able to board their flights.
Around 332,000 passengers are said to have booked a flight through Manchester Airport over the Jubilee weekend. These passengers, along with those across the UK, may be reflecting on what the past week of airport chaos may mean for them.
More than 150 UK flights were canceled on Wednesday alone, marking the eve of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend. 377 flights have been removed in the past seven days, according to aeronautical data company Cirium.
In Bristol, more than 300,000 customers are expected to pass through the airport during the mid-term holiday period, with up to 30,000 customers flying in on some days. The airport also saw queues stretch out of the terminal earlier this week, with people waiting in the early hours of the morning.
On Tuesday evening, the airport issued an apology for baggage delays as some customers saw reported “two-hour” delays in receiving their bags. But other passengers reported a smooth journey through the airport on Thursday.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) said part of the problem was that passengers assumed they had to arrive very early for flights and started queuing from the early hours.
“The challenge for us as an industry is to explain to people not to show up much earlier than necessary,” a spokesperson said. “It has a lot to do with perception rather than reality.”
TUI declined to put a figure on how many flights were disrupted over the weekend, but said a combination of factors caused the disruption.
But passengers arriving early may not be the only problems airports face. MyLondon reported that eyewitnesses saw disgruntled cabin crew ‘deliver their opinion’ amid chaotic scenes at Gatwick Airport over the weekend.
The situation is said to have been so dire that people are claiming stewards and pilots were flown in from Heathrow Airport on Monday May 30 to help, only to find the flight had been cancelled.
Recruitment shortages for positions such as security staff, ground attendants and check-in staff are causing chaos, with passengers being told to arrive much earlier than normal for their flights as they face long waits Waiting lines.
Many aviation workers have been laid off during the pandemic due to collapsing demand, but now airlines are struggling to cope with increased pressure following an increase in first summer bookings Covid-free since 2019.
Such a shortage has had a potential impact on British Airways and easyJet, which have had to cut thousands of flights from schedules in recent months at Gatwick and Heathrow airports.
But after meeting with aviation bosses this week, Mr Shapps warned that the scenes seen in recent days could not be repeated this summer.
“We are grateful to the airlines and operators who have continued to provide good service despite the current pressures and we recognize that not all operators have been affected equally,” he said.
“I also understand the resource constraints on the aviation sector, but that does not excuse poor planning and overbooking of flights they cannot service. Companies that have experienced the most disruption need to learn from those who ran the services smoothly.
“We will continue to monitor the situation closely to ensure that consumers do not lose out in the event of further disruption.”
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