Britons were left trapped abroad or unable to leave the UK today as air passengers continued to face major disruption – with today scheduled to be the busiest day for British airports in three years.
With 2,864 departures from the UK and the same number of inbound flights today as the four-day bank holiday weekend and half-term holidays come to an end, it will be the busiest day for air travel since before the pandemic.
And further queues were seen this morning at airports including Stansted, Manchester, Bristol and Edinburgh after 15,000 people were hit yesterday by last-minute changes. Experts say it will take three days to clear the backlog.
As of 8am this morning, there had been 24 cancellations at Gatwick today including ten departures and 14 arrivals; a further 14 at Luton including eight departures and six arrivals; and four at Heathrow including three departures and one arrival. When split by airline, there had been 20 easyJet cancellations, 12 Wizz Air and five British Airways.
BA said three of today’s cancellations listed at Gatwick and one at Heathrow had been announced previously, and its only cancellation actioned today was a departure to Miami which was due to a technical issue. A total of more than 100 BA flights were axed from Heathrow today, but these cancellations were all made a few months ago.
Meanwhile Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has refused to help short-staffed airlines by relaxing visa rules to ease the travel chaos, and also ruled out sending in the Army to ease queues at Britain’s struggling airports.
Thousands of families returning from half-term getaways and bank holiday breaks have been left stranded abroad while others were hit by further delays, with more flights cancelled today by airlines such as easyJet and Wizz Air.
Planes heading for Luton were diverted hundreds of miles away because of a power cut yesterday, and there was also trouble on the trains – with Eurostar passengers left waiting up to eight hours for their trains because of power failure on the line near Paris; while London’s Euston station had to be evacuated after a fire alarm went off.
It capped a nightmare week for British holidaymakers that saw understaffed airlines cancel hundreds of flights at the last minute, leading to police having to deal with the angry scenes in overcrowded departure lounges.
BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers and commuters flying from Bristol once again endure lengthy queues this morning
STANSTED AIRPORT: A passenger waiting at London Stansted this morning said the flight queues there are ‘like no other’
MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Air passengers continue to face long queues at Manchester Airport today amid the disruption
EDINBURGH AIRPORT: Passengers wait outside Edinburgh Airport this morning as the airport disruption continues
NAPLES AIRPORT: A queue for Tui and Jet2 flights at Naples Airport in Italy today, made up mostly of UK and Irish passengers
But the Government is resisting calls to step in and help the aviation industry, which has been accused of laying off too many staff during the pandemic then selling too many seats when Covid travel restrictions were lifted.
Among those stranded abroad are ‘Kelly’ from Lincoln and her husband, who are both teachers. They are at Dubrovnik bus station, having travelled there from Montenegro after their easyJet flight to Gatwick was cancelled.
Couple whose easyJet flight from Berlin to Luton was cancelled drove through the night after borrowing relative’s car
A couple whose easyJet flight from Berlin to London Luton last night was cancelled decided to borrow a relative’s German car and drive through the night to get to work by lunchtime today.
Clare, 49, and Christian Engelke, 56, were told in a text message yesterday lunchtime that their 10.55pm flight had been cancelled, and there were no alternative flights available until Wednesday.
Clare and Christian Engelke, pictured on holiday in Berlin
The couple, who are from the Staffordshire village of Codsall, spent the next few hours unsuccessful trying to find alternative flights or train journeys.
They gave up at 4pm and their friends said they could drive them three hours from Berlin to Saltzgitter, where they picked up another car from relatives.
The Engelkes then drove through the night across the continent to the Eurotunnel in Calais so they could get back home for work today.
They said they had to spend £180 on fuel and £178 on the Eurotunnel, and also then had to pick up their car at Luton today after paying £10 to extend the parking.
In addition, the couple now have a German car in England that they will have to take back.
Mrs Engelke told MailOnline today: ‘The staggering thing we learnt was how few flights are available between the capital city of Germany and the UK.
‘We are lucky we have mobile phones and used our initiative to call on lovely friends who we met in Berlin – seeing them for the first time in three years due to the pandemic – and family in Germany who have lent us a car to get us home. We now have a German car in England that we have to take back eventually.’
She added at 9am that they were ‘making good progress now on the M1 so hope to be sitting at our desks by lunchtime’.
She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘We’ve obviously had lots of disruption, but today we’re on our way to the bus station for our third bus journey. We’re off to Split to hopefully catch our plane tomorrow.
‘We’ve just been very disappointed in easyJet because they took eight hours to find our accommodation for us, so we were sat in a bus station last night for four hours and left at 8.30pm, so just feel that they’ve not really helped us to find our onward journey. We’ve had to do it all ourselves.
‘We found out (that the flight had been cancelled yesterday) at 8am. I just looked on the app and it said ‘cancelled’. So I just started phoning at 8am and they told us that we could have a flight on Thursday, but obviously we’re teachers so we’re very keen to get back to school so there’s less disruption for the children and the teachers that are going to have to cover us.’
She said they would have taken a total of three bus journeys lasting 12 hours and were having to travel to Bristol Airport instead of Gatwick, so would then have to travel onto Gatwick before heading home to Lincoln.
Meanwhile Matt Wheeler, 37, a train driver from Nottingham, said he and his partner had to make emergency childcare arrangements after finding out their easyJet flight home from Amsterdam had been cancelled this morning.
‘It’s a farce… didn’t know about the cancellation until we arrived at the airport at 3.30am, no easyJet staff or any staff that could help us,’ Mr Wheeler said.
‘We now have to try and arrange family members to pick our kids up from school/childminders this afternoon and then have them overnight and take them to school tomorrow.
‘They’ll have to take time off work (and) we will now miss a day’s work tomorrow as we won’t be home.’
Mr Shapps was asked yesterday if he would temporarily relax post-Brexit rules to allow more foreign workers in to the country, as happened last year when a shortage of lorry drivers left supermarket shelves and petrol pumps empty.
He told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme yesterday: ‘The answer can’t always be to reach for the lever marked ‘more immigration’. There is not some pull that is going to relieve this.’
The Transport Secretary said the 2016 Brexit referendum result meant and end to hiring ‘cheap labour from somewhere else’.
‘I didn’t vote for Brexit but the country did and we’ve made our choice – we want a high-wage, high-skilled economy,’ he said. ‘That means the aviation sector, like all other sectors, and as the HGV, the lorry driving sector has now done, needs to change.’
Mr Shapps also rejected calls for the Army to be drafted in. ‘The Army is not a snap solution to every problem. Secondly they are being deployed in increasing numbers to eastern Europe, to the Baltics, in what is a war situation and that’s what the Army are principally there for,’ he said.
‘The airports and airlines will need to sort out this problem. The Government will give them every support, but I don’t anticipate that will include calling in the Army.’
He said he would work with the industry to prevent summer holidays from being ruined, and also to ensure that air passengers who do lose out are given automatic compensation as rail travellers are.
‘It can’t be acceptable that it is so complicated sometimes to get a flight rearranged or to get your money back,’ Mr Shapps said.
‘I want it to be more like Delay Repay works on trains, where it is an automated process.’
Among those calling for visa rules to be relaxed was London Mayor Sadiq Khan.
BRISTOL AIRPORT: Long waits at check-in desks at Bristol Airport again this morning as the disruption continues
MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Air passengers continue to face long queues at Manchester Airport today amid the disruption
BRISTOL AIRPORT: People sleep on chairs at Bristol Airport again this morning as the airline disruption continues
He told the BBC: ‘What you can do very easily is make sure those who were in those jobs before, who have gone back to their country of origin, from the EU, are encouraged to come back.
Couple in 80s have two flights cancelled at different airports in consecutive days leaving £4,000 holiday in ruins
An elderly couple have given up going on their £4,000 diamond wedding anniversary holiday after two flights were cancelled at different airports in consecutive days.
Mike and Gill Garlick, who are both 81, were originally due to fly with easyJet from Bristol Airport to Olbia in Sardinia on Saturday on an 10.35am service.
The couple told MailOnline they got a taxi from their home in Malvern, Worcestershire, at 4.30am costing £130 ad were called to the departure gate at 11.30am, before being told at 12.45am that the flight was axed.
Mike and Gill Garlick, who are both 81, and from Worcestershire
Mr Garlick said they had ‘absolutely no help from easyJet’ and it was ‘useless trying to contact them as they were obviously inundated with disgruntled passengers’.
The couple rearranged via their travel company Citalia for the next available flight, which was the following day from London Gatwick at 7.05am. They caught a bus from the airport to No advice from anyone, so caught a bus from airport to Bristol Temple Meads railway station, then a train to London Paddington.
While on the train they booked a Premier Inn hotel at Crawley, and arrived at Paddington with 30kg of luggage at 6.40pm and ‘were just too exhausted to continue with yet more rail travel’, which would have been two more rail journeys plus a taxi. They therefore spent £150 on a taxi to the hotel in Crawley.
The couple then got a taxi on Sunday at 4.15am to Gatwick, and queued for 45 minutes at bag drop. But when they presented their boarding card to the machine it said their flight had been cancelled. They then decided they had no choice but to head home by train.
‘Because what we don’t want is a spring misery turned into a summer misery.
‘Many families who have saved, who have paid for a holiday and are looking forward to a holiday are going to be let down.’
A British Airways spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘It’s been a challenging period for the entire industry and at British Airways we’re completely focused on three priorities: our customers, supporting the biggest recruitment drive in our history and increasing our operational resilience.
‘We took action to reduce our schedule to help provide certainty for our customers and are giving them maximum flexibility to either rebook with us or another airline as close to their original departure time as possible, or to receive a full refund.’
And a statement from Wizz Air said:
‘We are so sorry that too many of our passengers are being subjected to current delays and, in some cases, cancellations. Across the travel industry Wizz Air and every airline is doing as much as we all can to help as many passengers as possible reach their destinations in time and with minimal delay. However, amongst other issues causing operational instability throughout the travel industry, there is a widespread shortage in staff, in particular within air traffic control, ground operations and baggage handling, security and across airports.
Wizz Air has increased direct communications with all our customers through text, email and phone calls to ensure – as much as possible – that they are best informed of any changes in our services. Booking directly on wizzair.com or the Wizz app – as opposed to other online booking platforms – remains the best way to ensure we reach our customers more quickly.
‘Our sincere apologies to those customers whose travel plans have been affected as we do understand how disappointed they are, particularly when so many people want and deserve to travel the world again. We are trying everything we can to offer them a range of options so that they can travel including alternative flights with Wizz Air, a full refund or 120 per cent in airline credit – both of which we aim to process within a week.’
It came after easyJet said it had cancelled 80 flights yesterday ‘due to the ongoing challenging operating environment’.
Gatwick was badly hit with more than 40 incoming flights cancelled from BA and Wizz Air as well as easyJet.
And thousands of passengers due to head home to Luton were left stranded overseas or diverted after a power cut early in the morning.
A spokesman for Luton Airport said: ‘Following a power failure in the area this morning, a temporary loss of navigational aids at the airport resulted in some disruption to flights.’
A similar problem with the overhead power supply near Paris halted Eurostar services for much of the day, with the cross-Channel rail operator ‘strongly urging’ passengers to postpone their journeys as early trains were delayed and later ones cancelled.
On social media, travellers stuck in France told how they had been left waiting at the Gare du Nord in Paris for as long as eight hours.
MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers wait in line at Manchester Airport this morning as the airport disruption continues
BRISTOL AIRPORT: A passengers sleeps on a bench at Bristol Airport this morning as the airline disruption continues
While some were eventually allowed to board delayed trains, others whose trains were cancelled were told they may not be able to get replacement services until tomorrow.
Flight cancellations today
- easyJet – Seville, Edinburgh, Luqa, Zurich
- WizzAir – Malaga (x2), Milan, Catania
- BA – Amsterdam
- Aurigny Air Services – Guernsey
- easyJet – Hereklion, Inverness, Edinburgh, Zurich, Seville, Luqa
- WizzAir – Chania, Mykonos, Milan, Catania, Larnaca
- BA – New York, Amsterdam
- Aurigny Air Services – Guernsey
- easyJet – Reykjavik, Faro, Zurich, Bordeaux, Jersey, Barcelona
- WizzAir – Lublin, Craiova
- easyJet – Zurich, Reykjavik, Faro, Bordeaux
- WizzAir – Craiova
- Arcus Air – Toulon
- BA – Miami
- Delta – Atlanta
- Austrian – Vienna
Some 225 departures from UK airports were cancelled between Monday and Friday last week, according to aviation data firm Cirium.
That compares with 24 during the corresponding half-term week last year.
Travel consultancy The PC Agency estimated that at least 15,000 passengers were affected by ‘last-minute changes’ to flights on Sunday.
Chief executive Paul Charles said this caused ‘major knock-on effects’ and ‘it will take three days to clear the backlog’.
UK airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months due to a lack of staff after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.
Airlines, airports and ground handling companies repeatedly called for sector-specific financial support during the Covid-19 crisis as Government travel restrictions suppressed demand.
They are now struggling to recruit new staff and have their security checks processed.
Lisa Webb, a law expert at consumer rights group Which?, said airlines needed to ‘follow the rules when flights are disrupted’ following a ‘hellish week’ for travellers.
‘The shameful scenes at UK airports this half-term are the result of an industry in which some airlines feel they can get away with ignoring consumer rights and acting with near impunity,’ she said.
‘It is clear that passenger rights need to be strengthened, so the Government must drop plans to cut compensation for delayed and cancelled flights and the Civil Aviation Authority must be given the power to issue direct fines so it can hold airlines to account when they flout the law.’
Meanwhile commuters in London faced ‘chaos’ this morning as an Underground strike caused major disruption.
There was severe disruption across the network on the first working day after the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday period as 4,000 members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union who work at Tube stations conducted a 24-hour walkout.
The strike is part of a dispute over jobs and pensions. A reduced timetable was operating on some London Underground sections, with services suspended elsewhere.
Many stations, especially those in central and south London, were closed, causing long queues for buses. London Underground advised people not to travel.
Transport for London said no plans have been tabled on pensions or terms and conditions, and nobody will lose their jobs because of the proposals it has set out.
As part of previous funding agreements, the Government has required TfL to work towards achieving financial sustainability on its operations by April 2023.
TfL has proposed not recruiting into around 500 to 600 posts as they become vacant.
The RMT said that, under current proposals, working agreements will be torn up and the looming threat to pensions remains in place.
RMT members on the Tube are also taking action short of a strike, meaning station staff might not work overtime, until Sunday July 10, which may result in short notice station closures.
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