Fears are mounting that the chaos at Britain’s big airports will continue ‘right throughout the summer’ amid scenes of mayhem at Manchester and Heathrow today.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary today claimed that the Government’s Covid lockdowns and general ‘mismanagement’ forced airport chiefs to impose mass layoffs which caused the staffing shortages now plaguing air traffic control, baggage handling and security.
‘This problem is going to continue particularly at airports like Gatwick and Heathrow right throughout the summer. It will be worse at weekends and better during the week,’ he told Sky News.
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Warning that passengers should brace for a ‘less than satisfactory experience’ in the coming months, Mr O’Leary said that 25% of Ryanair flights last weekend were delayed by air traffic control issues, and a further 15% by airports handling delays.
He added that Brexit was compounding the disruption caused as demand ramps up after pandemic restrictions were lifted, with airports unable to hire workers from abroad to fill posts.
Scores of holidaymakers were pictured battling massive queues at Manchester this morning, while flyers at Heathrow complained about the ‘evident luggage chaos’ gripping the west London hub.
Heathrow and Gatwick have urged airlines to cancel thousands of flights this summer as they fight to regain control, while easyJet started axing 10,000 flights to European holiday hotspots including Greece, Italy and Spain from July through to September.
A furious blame game has now broken out, with EasyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren saying he was ‘disappointed’ that Gatwick was unable to offer its full schedule of slots.
He added: ‘We are supportive that some airports are coming out and proactively capping the numbers because they have something we don’t have: visibility across the whole operation.
‘They are better equipped to judge the difficulties around air traffic control, ground handlers and so on. Of course it is disappointing but we’d still rather they are realistic about what they can deliver so we can adjust ourselves to that.’
Scores of holidaymakers battle massive queues at Manchester airport this morning
Twitter users complained of the ‘evidence luggage chaos’ at Heathrow airport today
Hundreds of passengers snaked through Manchester’s Terminal 2 at baggage drop-off today
Travellers tweeted pictures of further baggage mayhem at Heathrow airport today
More travellers are pictured queueing at Manchester today as chaos grips Britain’s big airports
Passengers ‘left without food or water for 11 hours’ after Jet2 flight back from Palma was scrapped
Two women say they were left without food or water for 11 hours while stranded in Palma after their Jet2 flight back to Manchester was scrapped.
Nyomi Loftus, of Sale, and her friend Megan Sainsbury were due to fly home from Palma Airport on Saturday – and arrived early for their Jet2 flight at 11.25pm.
However the flight was delayed and they eventually got an update at 3.50am which revealed a mix-up with baggage led to Jet2 ‘missing their slot to fly’.
Ms Loftus, 36, said 70 bottles of water were then shared around 380 passengers before arrangements for hotels were made.
She told the Manchester Evening News: ‘The worst part was that they called out the names of 30 or 40 passengers and told them to go to a special spot so we could go to an adult-only hotel. We had to pay for the hotel; families with babies were lying on the floor.
‘The hotel ended up being a family hotel anyway – they could have gone. We were told there was a mix-up with the baggage and they had miscounted. They had to unload it off one plane before moving it and then they lost the slot to fly as the staff needed a rest. No one could get any detail from anyone.’
She added: ‘There was a little girl sat near us in the airport who was being sick because she was crying so much. People were just walking around trying to find out what was going on. It was left it absolute uproar – it was a bit of a disaster.’
Miss Loftus and Miss Sainsbury had to pay for a taxi to their hotel 40 minutes away from the airport, costing €65. The pair were eventually flown home nearly 24 hours later and said the first food and drink was given at the hotel at 7.30am – eight hours after the flight was due to depart and 11 hours after they arrived at the airport.
A Jet2 spokesman said: ‘We would like to apologise once again to customers affected by this delay. Our teams have worked tirelessly to look after everyone, however unfortunately there was a shortage of accommodation in Majorca yesterday evening. We advised customers immediately via text that we would reimburse anyone that needed to book hotels separately and we have done everything we can to look after everyone. All remaining customers are being flown home this evening.’
The budget airline had planned to operate around 160,000 flights during the period. In May the carrier expected to operate at around 97 per cent of 2019 levels over the three-month period.
But the cull means this has been reduced to around 90 per cent, suggesting more than 10,000 flights will be axed. It means as many as 1.5million passengers will be affected by the cull. Those hit by it will be re-booked onto alternative flights on the same day, with a rival carrier if necessary. Fliers from Gatwick Airport will be the worst affected.
EasyJet, TUI and Wizz Air have already cancelled hundreds of flights during and after the half-term holidays.
Thousands of passengers were stranded abroad over half-term as a result, often waiting several days before being given another flight home.
It meant workers missed the start of work following the busy holiday period and students missed lessons.
With fewer seats available this summer, holidaymakers could see a rise in fares if they haven’t already booked tickets.
Announcing the flight cull yesterday, easyJet boss Mr Lundgren said: ‘Delivering a safe and reliable operation for our customers in this challenging environment is EasyJet’s highest priority and we are sorry that for some customers we have not been able to deliver the service they have come to expect from us.
‘Coupled with airport caps, we are taking pre-emptive actions to increase resilience over the balance of summer, including a range of further flight consolidations in the affected airports.
‘We believe this is the right action for us to take so we can deliver for all of our customers over the peak summer period in this challenging environment.’
When asked, he said he could not put a figure on the proportion of flights to be axed, adding: ‘It would be misleading for me to give any numbers today because we simply don’t know.’
He insisted that ‘the overwhelming vast majority’ of customers will not be affected and said the cull was also in response to caps introduced on flights by Gatwick and Amsterdam Schiphol airports.
An easyJet trading update issued yestrday stated that ‘there will be a cost impact from disruption, coupled with the enhanced resilience easyJet is putting in place this summer, from additional wet leased aircraft, crew costs and airport charges. We will therefore exceed the previously provided operating CASK [Cost for Available Seat Kilometres] ex fuel guidance. We believe that these capacity/cost impacts are a one-off this summer as we would expect all parties to build greater resilience in time for 2023 peak periods’.
‘Wet leasing’ agreements are between air carriers where the aircraft is operated under the party from which it is leased. For example, British Airways have wet leased four FinnAir planes with crew to run BA flights.
It came as Heathrow urged airlines to cut 10 per cent of flights out of Terminals 2 and 3 yesterday following a problem with its baggage handling systems.
Over the weekend passengers posted images on social media of a baggage mountain after the handling system at Terminal 2 suffered a major malfunction.
The problem was fixed by Sunday night but it may be several days before passengers are reunited with their luggage.
The plea to airlines to reschedule flights was only advisory but would have affected up to 15,000 if implemented. According to data from FlightAware, 26 departures and 13 arrivals at the airport were cancelled yesterday.
A Heathrow spokesman said it apologised ‘unreservedly’.
Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said: ‘EasyJet has caused chaos and distress for passengers over several weeks with a constant stream of last minute cancellations.
HEATHROW AIRPORT: Heaps of luggage were pictured mounting up outside Terminal 2 on Sunday
STANSTED AIRPORT: Chaos continues at Stansted Airport in Essex yesterday with passengers sleeping on the floors
Pregnant woman left stranded in Lanzarote for 17 hours after TUI ‘told her there was no space left on flight home’
A woman seven months pregnant was left stranded in Lanzarote for more than 17 hours after TUI allegedly told her there was no space left on her flight home.
Ceri Burns waited through six hours of delays on her flight home to Birmingham on Sunday, June 12 before she was denied boarding.
Ceri Burns and Chris Goulding were caught up in airline delays
Ms Burns, 37, and partner Chris Goulding were allegedly told by the holiday agents that ‘those who needed assistance and those with children’ had priority boarding. However, Mr Goulding, 38, claims that TUI kept himself and Ceri inside a pen by the gate, where he and other travelers weren’t allowed to board the flight.
Having spent the night in a hotel, the couple finally boarded a Ryanair flight home the following afternoon, more than 17 hours after their original flight departure time. However, having finally touched back down in Birmingham, the pair were met with another blow when TUI revealed they had lost track of their luggage.
Passengers in Lanzarote waiting for information on a TUI flight
Still without their suitcases, the couple have still not received a refund from TUI.
Mr Goulding said: ‘I went for a week in Lanzarote with my partner Ceri for our babymoon. TUI told us that we were flying home but then we kept getting delayed, by 2:10am I had gotten a text to say the reason for this was an unwell passenger in Birmingham. This meant that the crew had used up their maximum legally permitted flying hours.
‘We were put in a pen and as Ceri is pregnant I told her to sit down as we all had seats booked. It became clear when passengers started arguing that something was not right. They were scanning boarding passes and holding people in the room on the right of the gate if their bags had been removed due to there not being enough space on the flight. They randomly selected who wasn’t flying.
‘When the commotion started they stopped scanning boarding passes to deal with people and then told us the plane had already gone before we had our passes scanned. We were delayed three hours coming here which made us miss our first evening as well.
‘There has been no refund from TUI, it is ridiculously hard to get hold of someone and they are saying they cannot find our flight. We’ve not received any contact for the next steps from TUI and are struggling to actually speak to someone.’
TUI declined to comment when contacted last Friday.
‘While reducing the number of flights it operates may be the most sensible option in delivering a more reliable service over the summer, it yet again leaves passengers panicking about whether their flight or holiday will be cancelled or delayed.
‘The summer holidays are just around the corner, so EasyJet must immediately provide clarity on which flights are being cut.
‘Crucially, it needs to start playing by the rules and rerouting its customers, including on flights with other carriers – that’s the legal requirement and the very least the airline can do for customers it has left in a mess.’
The aviation sector across Europe says it is experiencing ‘operational issues’, including air traffic control delays, staff shortages in ground handling and check-in and increased times for identity checks of new recruits.
Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary to the Treasury, yesterday said it’s ‘sensible’ that airports are ‘revising their schedules’ because it will prevent a repeat of the ‘terrible scenes’ passengers have been experiencing.
He told Sky News: ‘What we’re seeing here is a result of the airline industry having massively contracted during the pandemic and now it’s facing this surge of pent-up demand as things stand back up.
‘It isn’t resourced and manned for that challenge and that’s why I think it is sensible that we’re starting to see some of the airports revising their schedules for the summer season ahead.
‘Frankly, we can’t have a repeat of the scenes we’ve had in some of our airports in recent weeks.
‘The transport secretary and ministers have been working very closely with the airline industry to try and get it into a more sensible place because they are offering flights they simply can’t honour and that is simply terrible for passengers.’
Mr Clarke also addressed the baggage crisis happening at Heathrow and said the ongoing issues are due to the Covid pandemic which led to the airline industry ‘slimming down’ their staff and operations.
He added: ‘This is not a result of Brexit, what I would say is it’s an industry that massively slimmed down and understandably so – at a time when flying was impossible for a year and a half.
‘It’s now massively expanded its operations and the pressure is enormous and it hasn’t managed to align the two.
‘We will do our part as government to try and make sure our side of things is right from issues like passports to border control.
‘We’re pouring resources into this and making sure the process is as robust as it can be. The airlines need to do their part and make sure the flights they’re offering can indeed be honoured.’
Meanwhile, scores of BA passengers, including a frail 81-year-old woman, were forced to spend the night on the floor of Rome airport when their flight was cancelled.
Holidaymakers endured a gruelling 14-hour delay on Saturday night after their 9.30pm flight was scrapped.
One traveller, Samantha Booth, fumed online: ‘@British_Airways you are a disgrace my 81 year old frail mother and my family have been left stranded over night in Rome airport. What are you doing about this.’
Other pensioners on the same cancelled flight to Heathrow told MailOnline they were treated ‘appallingly.’
Retired mechanic Tony Fairhead, 62 and his wife Sandra, 63 from Weybridge, Surrey, spent most of the night outside the check-in area before Tony borrowed an Emirates business class check-in mat to try and sleep on.
The couple, along with Tony’s sister Maureen, were being treated by big sister Jean, 74, to a week-long Greek island cruise with business class flights to and from Rome.
But the dream holiday was beset with cancelled flights, downgraded tickets and unwelcome surcharges which Jean is now addressing with BA and the cruise company.
The flightmare began as the four of them checked in, recalled Tony.
‘Our other sister back in the UK used to work for BA and she told us as early as 8pm that there was no flight showing from Rome to Heathrow that night, which obviously worried us.
‘Then we were told we had to leave the business lounge as it was closing, but it wasn’t until hours later that we were told the flight was cancelled.
‘We had to get our luggage back and were told we could spend £200 per hotel room for two people, but when we looked online there were absolutely no hotel rooms at that price and we’d have to spend about €50 for a taxi each way as well.
‘We were shunted back to the check-in area as everything else was closed, but there were hardly any seats there and we spent much of the night outside on the pavement. There was an old lady with dementia and a young baby who needed formula milk, but there wasn’t anywhere to make it.
‘It was the worst night I’ve ever spent. About 4am we moved inside and I rolled up the mat from the Emirates check in, but it wasn’t much better.
‘It was just horrendous.’
The flight was finally scheduled for 11.30am the next morning, but the unlucky planeload found their problems were still not over.
Added Tony: ‘We checked in again and were sent over to security with the same boarding passes from the night before, and of course were not allowed through.
‘There was a young Dutch lady who went back and forward across the terminal three times, being assured by the check-in staff that the problem had been sorted, only to be refused entry by security.
‘In the end, she shouted and swore at them, and the security people let us all through!’