Airport travel chaos: easyJet cancels more flights

Holiday firms and airlines are STILL flogging cut-price deals THIS MONTH despite cancelling thousands of flights because they don’t have enough staff – as air industry bosses say slash red tape to clear applications backlog

  • Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab condemns airlines over ‘lack of preparation’ for post-pandemic surge
  • He says Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been warning industry for months about return in demand 
  • BA had cancelled 124 short-haul flights due to go from Heathrow today; easyJet cancels 31 flights at Gatwick
  • Tui Airways continues to cancel six daily flights at Manchester, which represents a quarter of its schedule
  • Pilot at Manchester is forced to call police to help hundreds of passengers disembark an ‘abandoned’ plane 

What holiday deals are still being offered by Tui for travel this month? 

Seven nights, leaving in mid-June, for a family of four (two adults, two children), booking via Tui today:

Catalonia – £653

  • International II Apartments (self-catering, 2-star)
  • Studio with balcony
  • Return Tui Airways flights from London Gatwick

Corfu – £690

  • Esperides Studios & Apartments (self-catering, 2-star)
  • 2 bedroom apartment with terrace
  • Return Tui Airways flights from London Gatwick

Lanzarote – £699

  • San Marcial Apartments (self-catering, 2-star)
  • 1 bedroom apartment with balcony or terrace
  • Return Tui Airways flights from London Luton

Gran Canaria – £766

  • Revoli Playa Apartments (self-catering, 3-star)
  • 1 bedroom apartment with pool view and balcony
  • Return easyJet flights from London Gatwick

Menorca – £770

  • Sol Parc (self-catering, 3-star)
  • 1 bedroom apartment with balcony or terrace
  • Return Tui Airways flights from London Gatwick

Valencia – £873

  • Esmeralda Suites Apartments (self-catering, 2-star)
  • 1 bedroom apartment with terrace
  • Return Tui Airways flights from London Gatwick

Kefalonia – £900

  • Ai Helis Hotel Apartments
  • 1 bedroom apartment with balcony or terrace
  • Return Tui Airways flights from London Stansted

La Palma – £974

  • Hotel Las Olas (self-catering, 3-star)
  • 1 bedroom apartment with balcony or terrace
  • Return Tui Airways flights from London Gatwick

Travel firms are still selling cut-price holidays and flights in June despite wrecking the Platinum Jubilee breaks for tens of thousands of Britons amid a half-term holiday from hell at airports, MailOnline can reveal today.

Families have had plans cancelled even as they boarded planes, while others have been stuck at airports for 48 hours after flights were delayed or had to wait for hours for their luggage to arrive due to a shortage of staff.

Holiday firms have been accused of profiteering by taking money for breaks that still may not go ahead – and using big discounts to hoover up cash from millions desperate for a holidays after two years of lockdowns. MPs are expected to launch an investigation into claims that holidays are still being sold but will not go ahead.

MailOnline can reveal that Tui – Britain’s biggest holiday operator and the firm whose customers have arguably suffered most – is still selling holidays from Manchester leaving this weekend despite axing six flights per day from the airport branded ‘hell on earth’ because of long queues and shops running out of food and water.

Despite carnage at Manchester, 180 of Tui’s seven-day breaks to destinations including Majorca, Gran Canaria, Morocco and Mexico are still being sold for as much as £1,500 per person, leaving on Friday. EasyJet has called off 200 flights this week alone, including 31 today, but was pushing holidays online and offering people £100 off their next trip if they booked by 11pm last night.

For the past five days, millions of Britons have suffered long queues at airport check-in desks across the country and some even brought pillows and duvets knowing they would have to sleep on terminal floors. Others passed out on baggage carousels while waiting hours for their suitcases, some of which never arrived.

Those caught up in the carnage have described being too frightened to go to the toilet in case they lose their place in queues snaking around Manchester, Stansted, Birmingham, Bristol, Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

And the row between airlines and the UK Government deepened as Dominic Raab accused them of failing to heed ministers’ warnings to recruit enough staff – and pointed out they had been given £8billion of support.

As chaos continued at airports across Britain today with 20 per cent of all flights now affected, the Deputy Prime Minister condemned airlines over a ‘lack of preparation’ for the post-pandemic surge in demand from tourists.

British Airways had already cancelled at least 124 short-haul flights due to leave London Heathrow Airport today, although said passengers were given advance notice – while easyJet cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick, including to destinations such as Bologna, Italy; Barcelona, Spain; Prague, Czech Republic; Krakow, Poland; and Edinburgh. Tui Airways is continuing to cancel six daily flights at Manchester Airport, which represents a quarter of its schedule. 

Separately, there were also problems on international trains today, with long queues at London St Pancras as Eurostar services were delayed by up to an hour due to an IT issue affecting e-gates at the French border. 

Amid huge queues at Gatwick, Bristol and Manchester airports today, one easyJet passenger at the latter said the situation was ‘carnage’, saying: ‘Took two hours 45 minutes to get through – most of that was bag drop. Now on the aircraft, but due to shortage of ground crew, there’s going to be another delay of approximately 50 minutes.’

Another easyJet passenger said they had to wait for two hours and 40 minutes to receive their luggage after landing at Gatwick shortly before 3am this morning. He said this was ‘simply not good enough’.

The Liberal Democrats have even called for the Army to be deployed to ease the queues, saying ‘drastic action’ is required ‘now to tackle this travel carnage and break the logjam’ after getaways were ‘thrown into disarray’. 

Trade unions and the Labour Party say the Government has failed to provide enough support to the sector. But Mr Raab said Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had been talking to the industry for months about the return in demand, warning that ‘this will come and that you need to make sure that you’ve got your recruitment in place’. 

LONDON STANSTED AIRPORT: People queue for buses to leave Stansted Airport in Essex this morning as chaos continues

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: A holidaymaker speaks to a member of Tui staff at Manchester Airport at 9.30am this morning


Today, Tui is still selling holidays leaving Manchester on Friday, despite the major problems being faced at the airport 


EasyJet is among the airlines offering holiday deals to potential customers this week despite the chaotic scenes at airports 

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face huge delays at Manchester Airport this morning

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers face huge delays at Bristol Airport at 4am this morning as the airport chaos continues

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers face huge delays at Bristol Airport at 4am this morning as the airport chaos continues

LONDON GATWICK AIRPORT: Queues at London Gatwick Airport’s South Terminal at 10.39am this morning

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face big delays at Manchester Airport today, with this photo taken at 2.41am

But in a stinging attack on airlines, Mr Raab told Sky News this morning: ‘I don’t think the airline operators have done the recruitment they should have done and taken the advice that the Transport Secretary gave them.’

Mr Shapps has warned tourism firms not to over-book flights and holidays amid fears travel chaos will drag on into summer, saying that scenes over recent days of travellers being reduced to tears ‘must not happen again’. 

Police had to tell us our flights were cancelled 

After fighting their way through ‘scenes of bedlam and huge queues’, Steven Hession, wife Kerrie and their two children were left disappointed after their long-awaited trip to Greece was cancelled.

Steven and Kerrie Hession from Blackburn, Lancashire

But, to add insult to injury, it was police – not TUI staff – who were sent in to tell passengers at Manchester airport on Saturday they weren’t going anywhere.

Mr Hession, of Blackburn, Lancashire, said they were told almost four hours after their scheduled departure time and had then been left ‘stranded’ for another two hours before finally being allowed to leave.

The moment police broke the news to passengers was caught on video. The 45-year-old, who works for British Gas, added that TUI had sent a text informing the family that their £4,000 holiday to attend a relative’s wedding in Greece had been cancelled due to ‘significant operational disruption’.

He said: ‘It’s not great for the mental health, after packing and all the excitement, then being sent home.’

Determined not to miss the big day, the family have spent another £1,000 booking alternative flights.

He also accused operators of ‘seriously over-selling’ trips which they could not deliver due to a staff shortage crisis.

Explaining the extent of problems, aviation expert Luke Farajallah from Specialist Aviation Services told LBC radio: ‘It’s about 20 per cent of flights that are affected across the UK across all airlines and across all airports.’

Aviation data firm Cirium said 377 flights from UK airports were cancelled in the seven days up to and including yesterday. 

Gatwick has been worst hit with 151 cancellations, then Manchester (41), Heathrow (36), Bristol (27) and Edinburgh (19). Some 10,794 flights are scheduled to depart from UK airports between tomorrow and Sunday.

It comes as one pilot at Manchester Airport was forced to call the police to help hundreds of passengers disembark an ‘abandoned’ plane after they were left sat on the runway for three hours due to staff shortages.

Holidaymakers were left onboard the aircraft on Monday evening, with the Tui flight due to take-off for Tenerife, before officers were called in by the exasperated crew. Families had already been delayed by a few hours in boarding the plane, which was due to depart at 5.50pm, eventually getting into the craft at 7pm.

Ground crew took so long to load luggage that the flight was cancelled, before ‘abandoning’ them. Passengers were then stuck waiting inside the hot plane for three hours before being helped off by police at 10pm. 

Airlines now fear disruption at UK and European airports will continue for months as passenger numbers further ramp up post-pandemic.

According to an internal briefing document, Airlines for Europe – the continent’s largest airline association – expects disruption to drag on ‘for a good chunk of the summer season’.

Experts say it will only be averted if operators offer higher wages and ministers further speed-up the background checks new staff must go through.

Mr Raab told Sky News today: ‘It’s good news that more holidaymakers have got the confidence post-Covid pandemic to say, ‘OK, do you know what, we’re going to book these flights’.

‘There’s obviously been a surge in demand. Throughout the pandemic the Government has provided £8billion of support. There’s been some tweaks to the regulation to make it easier for the airline industry to hire.

‘And I think also there’s clearly been a lack of preparation for that surge back in demand of holidaymakers.

MANCHESTER AIRPORT – Queues at Manchester Airport at 4am this morning as more flights are cancelled across Britain

LONDON STANSTED AIRPORT – People rest on the floor of Stansted Airport in Essex today as the delays and chaos continue 

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face huge delays at Manchester Airport this morning

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers queue for check-in outside Terminal One of Manchester Airport this morning

LONDON GATWICK AIRPORT – A man sleeps on a woman’s lap at the North Terminal of London Gatwick Airport this morning

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face big delays at Manchester Airport today, with this photo taken at 3.11am

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers queue for check-in outside Terminal One of Manchester Airport this morning

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face huge delays at Manchester Airport this morning

‘And Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, has been talking to the industry for months now, saying that this will come and that you need to make sure that you’ve got your recruitment in place.

‘Inhumane’ airport ordeal  after spending £2,500 to attend wedding in Cyprus

It should have been a dream holiday – but ended up an ‘inhumane’ ordeal.

Having spent £2,500 to attend a wedding in Cyprus, Jen Burnett and daughter Chloe, four, arrived at Manchester Airport three hours in advance – and spent 11 hours there as Sunday’s flight was cancelled by operator TUI.

Jen Burnett, 38, of Bebington, Wirral, and daughter Chloe, four

Their 5.30pm departure time came and went with no announcements. At 11.30pm, the marketing worker, 38, from Bebington, Wirral, had to find a hotel. ‘It was horrendous,’ she said. ‘The way they treated my daughter is inhumane. When we got through security there was no proper food – only chocolate and crisps. I had to book us into a Travelodge at a motorway services and pay £50 for a taxi. It was 1am when I got Chloe something to eat.’

Thankfully Monday’s rearranged flight to Paphos took off on time and they made it to the wedding. TUI expressed its apologies.

‘So I know that there’s a bit of finger pointing going on at the moment, but that’s the support and that’s the advice.

‘I don’t think the airline operators have done the recruitment they should have done and taken the advice that the Transport Secretary gave them.’

Mr Raab also said he does not know if aviation bosses are looking to access tax records that would help them to recruit staff more quickly.

He told Sky News: ‘I don’t know the details of that. But I do know that we’ve made some changes on the regulatory front because we know that there’s a demand for recruitment and we want to help the airline industry deal with that.’

It comes after a furious Mr Shapps said last night: ‘It’s been very distressing to see passengers facing yet more disruption at airports – having well-earned holidays cancelled and plans left in disarray.

‘We’ve been clear that industry leaders need to tackle the issues we saw at Easter head-on. Although some steps have been taken, we are still not seeing the progress we need to.’

He added: ‘We will be meeting with airports, airlines and ground handlers again to find out what’s gone wrong and how they are planning to end the current run of cancellations and delays.

‘I also want to be reassured on their plans for the upcoming summer holidays. We need to make sure there is no repeat of the scenes witnessed over the last few days.

‘Despite government warnings, operators seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver. This must not happen again and all efforts should be directed at there being no repeat of this over the summer.’

He said the Government had ‘done its part’ by making law changes which allow background checks on new recruits to happen quicker and providing £8billion in support during the pandemic.

The peak summer season begins in six weeks next month when school term ends, meaning operators do not have long to rectify the issues.

The intervention could stoke tensions with the industry after a row broke out with ministers over who was to blame.

Lord Parkinson, the arts minister, said yesterday that the Government had ‘for many months’ been urging the industry to ensure it has enough staff.

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face huge delays at Manchester Airport this morning 

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers queue for check-in in the underground car park outside Terminal 1 at Manchester today

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face huge delays at Manchester Airport this morning 

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers face huge delays at Bristol Airport at 4am this morning as the airport chaos continues

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

MPs also urged the sector to ‘get a grip now’ and called for an investigation into the accusations.

So who REALLY is to blame for airport chaos? 

Huge queues of passengers snaking outside airport terminals, hundreds of flights cancelled or delayed for up to seven hours, and travellers reduced to tears. This is the reality of Britain’s half-term holiday hell… so how did we get here and whose fault is it?

Airlines and airports cut too many staff in pandemic

Several operators escape the blame when it comes to the chaotic scenes of recent days. Jet2, Virgin Atlantic and Ryanair, for instance, have fared better – with fewer cancellations and issues at check-in desks and baggage areas than other airlines.

Some airports, such as Heathrow, London City and Stansted, have also generally coped with surging passenger numbers better than others.

But it is no coincidence that those operators struggling most appear to be the ones who cut staff most aggressively during the pandemic.

British Airways cut at least 10,000 roles, many of them experienced ‘legacy’ staff. It is partly why the flagship carrier announced this month it will axe 16,000 flights, or 8,000 round trips, from its schedule until autumn.

Budget airline easyJet, which has ripped seats out of aircraft so fewer cabin crew are required, is another which cut too heavily. Last week it said it is axing 200 flights over the half-term holiday. Manchester Airport, which also shed hundreds of roles, has been host to the most chaotic scenes of all.

Martin Chalk, head of the pilots’ union Balpa, summed it up neatly by saying: ‘Airlines have lost experienced staff [who] can often find the right ways to recover an operation. Once the dominos start to fall it has a knock-on effect.’

Staff can’t be replaced quickly

Operators are struggling to recruit new staff quickly enough to meet surging post-Covid demand.

One reason is the extensive background checks aviation staff must undergo, with operators reporting that these are taking much longer than usual. Some aviation chiefs say they are taking as long as five weeks or more – or around 20 per cent longer than usual.

Legally, aviation firms must seek references from new recruits’ previous employers for the past five years. Until recently, they had to contact each employer manually, dragging out the process. In some cases, new recruits have had ten or more employers in that time, prolonging recruitment drives.

The industry claims government counter-terror checks, which must be carried out, have also been taking longer. During this time, many prospective new workers are said to be dropping out after finding work elsewhere.

Most airlines also like to spend at least a few weeks training cabin crew, although legally they can be deployed on planes after just a few days’ training.

Poor basic pay and terms and conditions being offered by operators has also been blamed for recruitment drives stalling. Some are offering barely more than the minimum wage to baggage handlers, security staff and cabin crew.

Too many flights being scheduled

Some airlines scheduled too many flights after all Covid travel restrictions were dropped in March, having apparently gambled that they could recruit new staff quicker. Hundreds of flights had to be cancelled at the last minute during the Easter holidays because some carriers didn’t have enough staff to operate them.

Hundreds more are now being pulled from schedules further in advance by BA, easyJet and TUI. It means they have effectively banked millions of pounds from travellers for trips they couldn’t honour.

But, despite a reduction in schedules, insiders say some airline and airport staff are still being pushed to the limit and stretched more than ever to ensure flights leave on time and huge queues are avoided. This is inevitably having a knock-on effect on quality of service and turn-around times as staff become exhausted.

One senior industry source said: ‘It would be unusual if operators were not pushing some staff harder than they’d like to be pushed. But right now the boundaries are probably being pushed as much as they can within the law.’

Could Government be doing more?

The industry claims the Government must also shoulder some of the blame and should now be doing more to help. It says all Covid travel restrictions were only dropped in March and that left only a month or two to ramp up operations to meet the surge in demand.

It points to the fact that almost all restrictions were lifted towards the end of last year, only for them to be reimposed just before Christmas due to the discovery of the Omicron variant. The Government’s furlough scheme also ended on September 30 last year, making it harder to retain staff.

But in truth, the Government announced on January 24 that restrictions were to be dropped for the fully vaccinated – the vast majority of travellers.

Operators have therefore had five months to prepare for the peak summer season, which should be enough. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has also changed the law to streamline the process for employment checks, allowing staff to be recruited quicker. It means some operators have, in reality, mismanaged the situation and only have themselves to blame.

Disruption may last for months

Recruitment experts say disruption could last for up to a year due to the volatility of the aviation jobs market, meaning summer holidays also face severe disruption.

Kully Sandhu, boss of the Aviation Recruitment Network agency, which has 300 sector vacancies, says those who left the industry after being sacked during the pandemic have found other, more lucrative work or jobs with more sociable hours. It means the industry faces an uphill struggle to get staff back to pre-pandemic levels.

Mr Sandhu said: ‘In my opinion, it could be up to 12 months before we see staffing at airports back to pre-pandemic levels. There is also now over-demand and under-supply, with everybody fighting for the same individuals to work in their business. Other industries have also taken away a lot of the talent. It’s a whole catalogue of things.’

Before Brexit, jobs such as baggage handling were typically done by Europeans. But fewer are applying for such roles since Britain left the EU. Operators may be forced to offer better wages and terms and conditions if they want to avoid a crisis this summer.

UK operators are not alone

Security waiting times at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport have become so long in recent weeks that airlines, among them Dutch carrier KLM, have halted bookings due to the risk of passengers missing flights.

Queues there have been much like those at British airports in recent weeks, snaking outside terminal doors, with waits of several hours to check in bags. Fights have even broke out between passengers. Hundreds of flights have been cancelled by airlines using the airport as a result.

Travellers have also described ‘hellish’ queues at Dublin Airport, while Los Angeles International Airport has struggled to meet demand, leading to dozens of flight cancellations.

Dick Benschop, chief executive officer of the Royal Schiphol Group, has pledged that the chaos ‘will be gone this summer’. British travellers can only hope the same will happen here.

Julian Knight, Tory chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, told the Evening Standard: ‘[The aviation sector] risk harming their industry’s reputation for years to come as well as destroying the holiday plans of thousands of Britons.’

But one airport source hit back, saying: ‘It’s disappointing ministers are now looking to point fingers. Throughout the pandemic, industry warned we needed enough notice of restrictions being lifted to ramp staff back up.

‘In the event, restrictions were lifted in February and March, leaving only a short time to get people recruited, security cleared and trained.’

Explaining the situation today, Mr Farajallah, chief executive of Specialist Aviation Services, told LBC radio: ‘The key for this, number one, is there was no playbook that says this is how you restart after a pandemic, everybody is doing their very best. Airlines are definitely caught up in a three-way problem.

‘One is that a number of the people that they used to employ left the employ of the airlines and airports at the time of the pandemic.

‘Number two, recruiting and rehiring them is going on furiously. I’m also very associated with the recruitment part of the industry, and that’s going on, it is unbelievably strong, the effort that’s going on there. Everybody’s leaning in to get people back into the industry.

‘And the third point is that when you’ve got people, you’ve got to clear them, and there is a huge backlog of getting people security checked and all of the various special licences and special permissions they need to get into the environment that they need to work in which is of course very secure.

‘Now you could argue of course that there is a particular problem this week and how does it come to be that flights are published, sold, passengers booked and then they’re cancelled almost on the day. And I think that’s the bit that has definitely gone wrong from a short-term planning perspective.

‘These flights were made available six months ago, obviously with the best will in the world – the airlines want to fly, they don’t want to be flying people who are then going to be cancelled and claiming compensation. 

‘And therefore it doesn’t make any sense to say that the airlines have mismanaged this to that extent.’

And Huw Merriman, chair of Parliament’s Transport Select Committee, said the Government had told airlines to fly by saying they had to use 70 per cent of their flight slots or lose them, adding that Mr Shapps’ language was unhelpful.

‘I think it’s disappointing for the Government to appear to blame the industry. This is an industry that’s lost billions,’ the Conservative politician told Sky News, adding that airlines had been waiting for clarity on changing rules.

‘We need to find the solutions between government and industry to help the industry cope,’ Mr Merriman added.

As the situation escalated, the Labour Party accused ministers of failing to provide enough support to the aviation sector. Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh accused the Government of being ‘missing in action’.

‘They should show some responsibility, do their job, and take concrete steps to tackle the chaos growing on their watch,’ she said.

‘Passengers and our world-class businesses are demanding action – it’s time for the Government to take their fingers out of their ears and take practical steps Labour is proposing.’

‘They should tackle the backlog in security checks hampering airport recruitment, work with unions and industry to address chronic low-pay, and cut the red tape contributing to delays at the ports.’

And shadow levelling up, housing and communities secretary Lisa Nandy said ‘any government worth its salt would be moving heaven and earth to stop the misery and the chaos’ unfolding at airports.

She said: ‘The Government was warned all the way through the pandemic that the loss of skilled staff was going to create problems. They need to show some leadership and take some ownership of this crisis – get around the table with management and with workers’ representatives in the travel industry in order to end the chaos.

‘We need a proper post-Covid plan to get the industry back on its feet and get things moving again, including filling recruitment shortages that have emerged as a result of the pandemic.

‘Any government worth its salt would be moving heaven and earth to stop the misery and the chaos that is unfolding for families across this country right now. It’s time for the Government to stop blaming everybody else and to start doing its job. ‘

Speaking in Wakefield, Ms Nandy added: ‘When things go wrong, it’s the Government’s job to step up and try and fix it.’

The Liberal Democrats have called for the Army to be deployed to ease queues at airports and ports, and on roads.

The party’s transport spokesman Sarah Olney said: ‘The chaotic scenes at airports up and down the country have been nothing short of a complete disaster. 

‘Families’ half-term getaways have been thrown into disarray and now they face the prospect of a long weekend spent sleeping in airports and sitting in traffic jams. We need drastic action now to tackle this travel carnage and break the logjam.

‘That’s why drafting Britain’s best and brightest logistics minds from the Army to get things moving again is a no-brainer. Conservative ministers need to get a grip on this chaos at the 11th hour to save the jubilee weekend. Empowering the Army to run point from a command centre would do just that.’

Unite union general secretary Sharon Graham said those in charge of UK aviation companies ‘should hang their heads in shame’.

She added: ‘The UK’s airports are in crisis because thousands of jobs have been slashed and working conditions attacked.

‘Our money was handed over to firms without any strings attached. Literally hundreds of millions went to the aviation sector during the pandemic, and instead of bringing stability those firms have brought us chaos.

‘They did not protect jobs, many just used public money to prop up their share price or to pay for ‘fire and rehire’ to hammer pay and conditions. That is why we are where we are. It’s time for public money to have a hard-wire link to jobs. No more handouts without responsibilities. Taxpayers do not pay firms to sack their workers and cut their pay and conditions.’

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, said there are staff shortages across the industry, adding: ‘Things could get worse this summer before they get better.’

Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, said: ‘The blame game over staff shortages and flight cancellations is no help at all to passengers, who need instant action to bring an end to the airport chaos that is causing so much misery and leaving many people out of pocket, with little hope of getting all their money back.

‘The Government and regulators must take their share of responsibility for creating a situation where airlines feel empowered to treat passengers poorly and ignore their legal obligations to put passengers on alternative flights to their destinations, with other carriers if necessary.

‘Enforcing this rule would help thousands of passengers immediately.’

BRISTOL AIRPORT: One man is seen asleep on a seat as passengers face huge delays at Bristol Airport at 4am this morning

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers face huge delays at Bristol Airport at 4am this morning as the airport chaos continues

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face huge delays at Manchester Airport this morning

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: A busy Terminal Two at London Heathrow this morning as passengers continue to face delays

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face huge delays at Manchester Airport this morning

And Airlines UK, the industry body for carriers including British Airways, easyJet and Jet2, said: ‘Airlines were grounded for almost two years as a result of one of the most restrictive [Covid] travel regimes in the world and with this in mind, the sector has had only a matter of weeks to recover and prepare for one of the busiest summers we’ve seen in many years.

Group of 50 pensioners fly off on first holiday since lockdown… before ending up back where they started 12 hours later

A group of more than 50 pensioners flew off on their first holiday since lockdown only to end up back where they started 12 hours later following a nightmare day on EasyJet.

The group, aged 75 to 92, were supposed to be flying to the Isle of Man from Gatwick after getting there from their homes in Kent.

But their flight had to land in Manchester due to high winds and after a three and a half hour wait it was cancelled and they were flown back to Gatwick.

The group were supposed to be flying to the Isle of Man from Gatwick after getting there from their homes in Kent

Despite other flights making it to the Isle Of Man, after a 90 minute wait at Gatwick they were told there was no hotel accommodation for them and the next flight was in three days time.

So the whole group was forced to cancel their £675 a head trip. To add insult to injury, EasyJet said they wouldn’t refund the flight cost as the wind was out of their control.

The retirees – from Canterbury, Herne Bay, Whitstable and Hythe – say they are disgusted with their treatment and will never use the airline again.

Eileen Booker, who organises trips for over-70s through her Blean-based Booker Trip, said in the end they decided to cancel the whole thing and return home.

Eileen Booker, who organises trips for over-70s, said in the end they decided to cancel the whole thing and return home

She added: ‘We had people in their late 80s and even a 92-year-old. Since lockdown, this was their first holiday away. We were all hungry, tired, it was such a long day for nothing.

‘It was absolutely disgusting the way were treated. Other planes were landing on the Isle of Man, other people had on-board apps showing that. Why they chose to abandon us I don’t know.’

The group of 53 had set off by coach from Canterbury at 7.30am on Sunday, May 22 for a four-night excursion.

But instead of visiting the Lexi Wheel, Manx Electric Railway and the House of Keys, they spent 12 hours being shuttled up and down the mainland and found themselves back at Gatwick.

Ms Booker, 77, said the captain on the return flight had told them that on arrival at Gatwick there would be a coach to take them to a hotel for overnight accommodation and there would be a new flight in the morning.

She said: ‘We thought we’d salvage some of our five-day holiday. But when we got back to Gatwick, nobody at EasyJet knew anything about us and they said there wasn’t any availability for a group of 53 on a flight until Wednesday.

‘I had to make the decision to abandon the trip. We lost our holiday because of them.’

The party did not get home until the early hours of Monday, May 23. Ms Booker said the whole experience left her feeling ‘disgusted’ and she has vowed never to use EasyJet again.

A spokesman for the airline said: ‘We contacted customers to advise them of the cancellation and their options to rebook or receive a refund and with information on arranging hotel accommodation.

‘Unfortunately, we are unable to provide rooms for all customers and we advise that anyone who sources their own hotel accommodation will be reimbursed. Our team are reaching out to Ms Booker to apologise for her experience and to reimburse her and her group for their expenses.

‘While this was outside of our control, we are very sorry for the inconvenience caused by the cancellation. The safety and wellbeing of our passengers and crew is our highest priority.’

Because the cause of the cancellation was considered as an extraordinary circumstance, EasyJet will not pay out any compensation. The company will however, reimburse customers for any reasonable expenses.

It is understood other planes may have been able to fly to the Isle of Man at the same time due to changes in the weather at the time of arrival.

‘Despite this, and without the ability to know when restrictions would be completely removed or predict how much flying would be possible over the summer, the vast majority of the many tens of thousands of UK-departing flights a week will be operating as scheduled.

‘The focus now should be on our customers, with airports, airlines and Government working together in the best interests of Britons to ensure they get away over the summer.’

It came as TUI yesterday became the latest major operator to axe dozens of flights.

The package holiday giant said it was slashing 43 flights a week from Manchester Airport between yesterday and the end of June – a quarter of all flights from the hub.

The move plunged the summer holiday dreams of 37,000 travellers into chaos.

British Airways has already announced it is cutting 16,000 flights, or 8,000 round trips, over the peak summer season, including to hotspots such as Spain and Italy.

Last week easyJet said it was axing 200 flights over the half-term holidays, affecting 30,000 travellers.

Experts predict the disruption will get worse this coming bank holiday weekend, with even more flights scheduled, and could even last into the school summer holidays.

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘It’s going to be a bumpy path over the next few weeks as there’s no sign of the staff shortages gap being filled at the moment.

‘It needs the government to speed up processing of [security] passes and it needs pay rates to be higher, especially during a period of high inflation.. If those things don’t happen, I think we will see disruption this summer.’

Kully Sandhu, the boss of the Aviation Recruitment Network agency, which has advertised hundreds of sector vacancies, said: ‘There has been high volumes of recruitment and training going on in quarter one and two.

‘But we’re not at 100 per cent capacity and we won’t be all year. It will be better, but there will still be some disruption this summer.’

The Airlines for Europe document, obtained by the Financial Times, blamed higher than normal sickness rates and long waits for new staff to pass background checks for disruption.

The Government streamlined the background checks process this month by allowing firms to contact HMRC for the past-employer records of new recruits.

But industry leaders want to be able to access the records themselves and say doing so could reduce the checks to a matter of minutes.

The Government insists the aviation industry is ‘responsible for making sure they have enough staff’.

A spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority said the regulator understands the impact of disruption on customers, which is ‘exactly why there are rules in place to protect consumers in these circumstances’.

He went on: ‘We have guidance on cancellations and flight disruption published on our website for consumers, and continue to engage with airlines and airports to remind them of their responsibilities and make sure passenger rights are upheld.’

Meanwhile passengers booked on a Vueling flight from Gatwick were told the plane departed empty because of delays at the West Sussex airport.

Flight VY6209 was due to take off for the Italian city of Florence at 8.20pm on Monday.

But the Airbus A319 – which can carry up to 144 passengers – left nearly two hours late with no-one on board for the 734-mile flight.

Nisha Gupta, 32, from Windsor, Berkshire, was booked on the flight with her husband Ash.

She said they were forced to queue for more than four hours to check in luggage, but when they arrived at the departure gate they were informed no passengers could board the plane due to a staff shortage.

She said: ‘Eventually we were told by staff that the pilots made a decision to fly the plane back empty without a single passenger onboard due to Florence airspace closing.

‘The environmental impact of this is insane and a decision was clearly made to prioritise cost implications over customer experience and environmental impact.

‘Throughout this entire experience, there was a maximum of three staff members dealing with all Vueling flights that day.

‘We got to the airport at 3pm and did not leave until 2am after having to wait around to give details to the one staff member dealing with all cancelled flights, taking details and trying to book people into hotels.

‘No food or drinks were provided at all. Neither were any meal vouchers as per customer rights in the instance of a delay.’

The airline’s passengers at Gatwick continued to face severe difficulties.

One person posted a photograph showing a large crowd of people waiting to check-in, with the caption: ‘Vueling you need to get a grip of this absolute chaos at Gatwick.

‘One member of staff to handle this many people is completely unacceptable. Do you understand the impact this has on people?’

The airline was approached for a comment.

Also this week, holidaymakers Roger and Maria left their Devon home in the early hours for their WizzAir flight to Montenegro – only to find it had been cancelled on arrival.

Roger, who declined to give his surname, said: ‘We’ve basically been abandoned. When we got here we were given a piece of paper explaining it had been cancelled and told to book another flight, but there’s not another one until Thursday. They should’ve cancelled it much sooner rather than leaving us in the lurch.’

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face huge delays at Manchester Airport this morning

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers queue for check-in in the underground car park outside Terminal 1 at Manchester today

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Passengers continue to face huge delays at Manchester Airport this morning

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers face huge delays at Bristol Airport at 4am this morning as the airport chaos continues

LONDON HEATHROW: Passengers appeared to face shorter queues at London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five this morning

LONDON HEATHROW: While there are queues at Heathrow Terminal Five (above) today, they are shorter than at Terminal Two

LONDON HEATHROW: Passengers queue to check-in for British Airways flights at Heathrow Terminal Five this morning

Meanwhile there were also separate problems on international trains, with large queues for Eurostar passengers at London St Pancras station today.

A Eurostar spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘The station is busy and waiting times have been longer than usual this morning due to an IT issue affecting e-gates at the French border. 

‘This has now been resolved and trains currently have a delay on departure of 30 to 60 minutes. We are very sorry for the extended wait today. Our teams are working hard to support passengers through check in.’ 

It comes after Eurostar passengers were yesterday forced to wait in a queue which snaked along roads outside St Pancras station.

Author Svenja O’Donnell, who was among the passengers in the queue, said she had been waiting in the line for nearly three hours for a train to Paris. She said yesterday: ‘The queue is through the whole station and down two blocks. We have been given very little information.’

She advised other passenger to ‘stay home’ to avoid the ‘absolute chaos’. At least one train from London to Paris departed with none of its onboard toilets working.

LONDON ST PANCRAS: Queues of passengers at London St Pancras rail station today as they wait to check-in for the Eurostar

LONDON ST PANCRAS: People queue up at London St Pancras railway station today for Eurostar services to the continent

MONDAY – A pilot at Manchester Airport was forced to call police to help hundreds of passengers disembark an ‘abandoned’ Tui flight to Tenerife on Monday evening after they were left sat on the runway for three hours due to staff shortages

2020 — An aerial view of the runway at Kemble-Cotswold Airport during the pandemic in October 2020 where an airplane salvage company took a stock of many aircraft – including 16 Boeing 747s – rendered unviable by the consequences of Covid

Another Eurostar customer described the situation at St Pancras as a ‘total shambles’, adding: ‘Thousands of people, queues snaking around the station, out into the street and back in again. Shocking mismanagement.’

One traveller complained about ‘waiting outside in the rain’ and there being ‘no clear signs and explanation’.

Eurostar said in a statement yesterday: ‘Unfortunately we had a technical fault on a train earlier this morning which meant we had to take it out of service. 

‘As a consequence, there are delays of 30-60 minutes on departure in London St Pancras. Queues are moving and our staff are working hard to look after passengers and ensure their check-in is as smooth as possible.’

All remaining coronavirus restrictions for people entering the UK were lifted on March 18.

SARAH VINE: Greed of airlines has made holidays hell

Excuse me if today’s column seems a little skew-whiff. I didn’t get to bed until gone 4am, and had to be up again at 7am.

But I’m one of the lucky ones: at least I crawled between the sheets at home before passing out like a starfish for three hours. Many had to make do with a grubby floor.

No, I haven’t been whooping it up in a nightclub or reliving my misspent youth. I was doing what thousands of other Britons like to do every now and then: have a few days abroad, in this case Italy.

But it seems getting on a plane that not only takes off vaguely on time but also reaches its destination is about as likely as J.K. Rowling being invited to speak at Stonewall’s AGM.

Actually, I have no right to complain. Compared with what some poor souls have had to endure, my experience was positively VIP. Sure, my easyJet flight was delayed repeatedly at Pisa airport where, for reasons best known to the Italians, all the food outlets shut at 7.30pm, leaving delayed families nothing to eat or drink but Duty-Free Smarties, Camel Lights and warm limoncello.

Fun if you’re heading to Ibiza on a three-day bender — but it’s not to everyone’s taste.

That was a picnic, however, compared with the scenes in Britain, which make tin-pot operations such as Pisa look positively state-of-the-art.

The shambles unfolding in airports up and down the country is not just shocking, it’s shameful.

Families stranded, children in tears, people exhausted and stressed out. Holidays they’ve been looking forward to — saving for, dreaming about — up in smoke.

Police drafted in to tell passengers their holidays are cancelled, people too anxious to go to the loo in case they lose their spot in line. And everywhere, crushing disappointment.

That little bit of joy in their lives — the one thing that’s kept them going — ruined, and all because a greedy bunch of airline bosses couldn’t do their jobs properly.

I mean, what did they think was going to happen? It’s the first proper school holiday since Covid travel restrictions were lifted; it’s the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee; we’ve been locked up for two years. Surely it doesn’t take a genius to predict a surge in passenger numbers.

As for the airlines that have recruited new staff, they must have known that, in the aftermath of Covid, obtaining security clearance for them would take months rather than weeks.

None of this is the fault of airline staff. They’re just the foot-soldiers, as stressed and exhausted as the rest of us. Since it’s their colleagues’ jobs that were cut, it’s they who are having to take up the slack.

Waiting in line in front of an empty check-in desk at Pisa on Monday evening, I asked a young woman in a high-vis jacket if she worked for easyJet. ‘Unfortunately I do,’ she replied, in terms too colourful for a family newspaper.

The captain and crew on our flight couldn’t have been more professional. But it’s out of their hands.

Instead of recruiting the number of people required to deal with the inevitable post-Covid surge in demand for air travel, it seems the airlines and airport bosses decided to chance things and do it on the cheap: an approach that’s not only venal, but also very stupid.

It’s not as though they’re giving these flights away, either. Prices are through the roof, plus all the extras. I paid £170 to check in three bags on our way home (my daughter had embarked on a forensic exploration of the second-hand clothes stores near Florence). Three teas on the flight cost €9. To be honest, by that stage I would cheerfully have parted with a kidney in exchange for a cuppa, but you know what I mean.

When people hand over their hard-earned cash, they should get what they’ve paid for and not be treated as though they are the ones who have done something wrong.

To want a few days away from the stresses and strains of everyday life is not a criminal offence. But taking people’s money — and then treating them with such cavalier disregard and lack of respect — should be.

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