Britons face triple Easter travel chaos: British Airways and easyJet cancel 110 flights today, sparking huge queues at airports, 23-mile M20 SHUTS 3,500 lorries wait in Dover, hundreds of trains cancelled, Ruining Britain’s great ‘post-Covid holiday’
- Travel chaos continues today, nightmarish queues in the air and on the road
- Airport suffers perfect storm with more passengers and fewer staff
- Meanwhile, P&O Ferries’ suspension says 3,500 trucks are in road hell
This morning, as the Easter holiday nightmare deepened, the director of the Civil Aviation Authority made a rare intervention to warn them of another long queue for passengers at the airport.
Manchester and Gatwick airports saw long queues in the early hours as staff couldn’t seem to clear them fast enough.
Several airlines and airports are grappling with staff sickness and shortages, with easyJet and British Airways collectively canceling more than 100 flights a day.
British Airways today grounded 68 planes to places including Athens and Prague, and Easyjet grounded 42, according to travel journalist Simon Calder.
And in Kent, the M20 had to close as 3,500 lorries were trapped as P&O’s ferries were suspended.
Manchester Airport – whose general manager Karen Smart stepped down this week – once again bore the brunt of this morning’s worst queue.
Alan Wilson asked if all security was closed when he arrived before 3am.
He tweeted: “When you arrive at Manchester Airport, are all the security checks closed?
‘ So let the queue pile up and you’d assume they’d try to avoid that with the negative press they’ve had.
“It’s not even 3am and they’re starting to line up.”
Scenes at Gatwick Airport earlier this morning showed chaotic images of long queues
At Manchester Airport today, security was asked where
Queues at Manchester Airport frustrating passengers trying to leave for rest
Many frustrated customers and passengers take to social media to vent their anger at the queue
Jill Blamire shared a picture and simply wrote: “It’s messed up”
Chris Campbell said there was a problem with the automatic gates at passport control at Gatwick Airport.
He wrote online: “1am. We were greeted by passport control chaos at Gatwick Airport after a 4.5 hour delay at EasyJet.
“They decided to tinker with the electronic doors, but they didn’t have enough manpower.”
Mark Butler also bemoaned the queue at Gatwick.
He said: “Fixing the Gatwick problem. Been queuing up to get through passport control.
“Stuck in the terminal before even getting to the gate! It’s 2am!
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham said on Wednesday that problems causing long queues at Manchester Airport could last for two months.
Trucks line up at Operation Block on the M20 near Ashford, Kent as cargo delays at the Port of Dover continue
P&O ferry service remains suspended after company lays off 800 workers without notice
Around 3,500 lorries stuck on hellish roads waiting to leave Kent
Meanwhile, after days of flight cancellations and chaos in departure halls, the boss of the Civil Aviation Authority issued a warning to airline and airport chiefs in two rare letters.
Richard Moriarty said he was concerned about the service passengers had received in recent days and warned airlines to offer more realistic flight numbers based on staffing levels.
Some airlines are struggling to hire fast enough to keep up with the surge in passenger numbers over the Easter holiday and after all Covid travel restrictions were lifted last month.
Mr Moriarty said it was the CAA’s “expectation” that airlines and airports could work better together to “minimise disruption”. He added that airlines should give passengers extensive cancellation notices and avoid doing so during the last hour they are already at the airport.
Mr Moriarty’s letter continued: “I would also like to take this opportunity to remind you of your legal obligations … to offer passengers the option of refunds or other travel arrangements as early as possible.”
Drivers elsewhere have also been warned to expect long delays next weekend as millions start the Easter holiday.
Gatwick had problems yesterday morning, with queues for most of the week
Passengers forced to wait in line to reach their flight through the gate
Some passengers angered by long queues and lack of airport staff
Not great: How the P&O crisis put 3,500 lorries on Kent’s roads
British Ports Association chief executive Richard Ballantyne told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning that the condition of lorries in Dover had reached a tipping point.
He said: “We’ve seen a lot of queues and introduced traffic management measures that actually help keep the town of Dover moving freely so local businesses and residents can carry out their normal duties. But these measures clearly mean something special. It was truck drivers queuing outside the port through Kent to get back on the M20, which obviously wasn’t a very good situation for them, but it was introduced to avoid any particular congestion in the town of Dover itself.
‘Obviously, it wasn’t particularly pleasant. These drivers lack public facilities such as toilet and shower facilities, where they eat, etc. So it’s not ideal, and I have a lot of sympathy for them and all the law enforcement agencies that are helping them.
“In the event of a major incident, local resilience forums will get more resources, police, national highways, ports, etc., will be able to direct more resources to de-escalate the situation.”
“What we’re seeing is capacity in the short straits. Current operators and companies like Eurotunnel are talking to their customers to try and encourage some people to delay travel when they don’t need it at the moment. And it’s going to take a few days before that. Relief. But what we saw last weekend after a collision with a ferry operator in the port of Dunkirk, we saw a real spike over the weekend and a relief this week. But now as we approach another busy We saw these queues extend again over the Eastern Weekend.
‘This has a lot to do with the fact that P&O is currently out of service. That’s a big airline, so you’re pulling a lot of capacity out of the short-term straits, that’s really a fundamental issue, there are other factors – we’ve seen some Brexit issues, IT systems outages this week. We’ve seen the Easter holiday kick off, which always attracts a lot of people who want to go on holiday and post a lot of Covid restrictions. It’s one of the first holidays to actually have no travel restrictions, so we’re seeing a lot of people wanting – understandably – to leave, but they’re just as affected as those cargo drivers.
The AA estimates that more than 27.6 million car trips are planned between Good Friday and Easter Monday.
An estimated 13.6 million people are expected on Good Friday alone, leading to fears of a setback in popular tourist routes.
AA spokesman Tony Rich said: “As people reduce overseas travel, the Easter holiday looks set to give the UK tourism industry a much-needed boost.
“With more than 27.6 million trips planned for the bank holiday weekend, we expect severe congestion across the UK as people flock to coastal resorts and holiday homes.”
An AA survey of 14,000 drivers revealed that 53 per cent of drivers will use their cars to holiday in the UK this year.
About 20% of people will not go on vacation in 2022 due to financial stress.
Drivers who travel long distances are particularly vulnerable to high gas prices.
The average price of petrol in Britain’s forecourt was 161.9p a litre on Monday, while diesel was 176.0p a litre, the latest government figures showed.
Rail passengers have been warned to watch out for disruptions as Network Rail undertakes 530 engineering projects at a total cost of £83m.
This includes the closure of the West Coast mainline between London Euston and Milton Keynes between Good Friday and Easter Monday due to upgrades to existing lines and work on HS2.
Cross-Channel ferries will also be busy with many travelling abroad or families returning at the end of the two-week Easter school break.
There have been long queues on Kent’s roads in recent days as P&O Ferries suspended sailings without notice resulting in a shortage of ferries.
The operator said it plans to resume operations on the Dover-Calais route next week, pending regulatory approval.
Meanwhile, the UK tourism industry is starting to recover after being hit hard by travel restrictions imposed during the coronavirus pandemic, new data shows.
UKinbound, a trade association representing more than 300 people who deal with tourists visiting the UK, said 39% of its members reported expecting international bookings and visitor numbers for the April-June period to be the same or higher than before the pandemic.
The U.S. market saw the strongest recovery, with one-third of businesses growing in the region.
But about 61% of companies expect demand to fall, showing how many businesses in the industry are still struggling.
Joss Croft, chief executive of UKinbound, said: “It has been fantastic to see international travellers returning to the UK and we are delighted to see the strongest growth in our number one market, the US.
“The end of all travel restrictions in the UK gives international consumers the confidence to start travelling here again.
“Compared to 2020 and 2021, the business is booming, but we are significantly behind the boom in 2019 and our competitors.”
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