Travel chaos 'to last into the summer' warns airport boss

·3 min read
Passengers queue for flights at Heathrow Airport. Would-be travellers have labelled queues at Heathrow
Passengers queue for flights at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday. (PA)

An airport boss has warned the travel chaos impacting holidaymakers could last "through the summer" as flights continued to be cancelled and passengers faced long queues.

Passengers have been hit by disruption for several months, with the situation worsening this week due to the rise in demand sparked by the half-term school holiday and the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday period.

Cancelled flights and delays have affected Manchester, Heathrow, Gatwick, and Bristol airports.

Tim Jeans, director of Cornwall Airport Newquay, said airlines and airports “have been short of the numbers of people they need” and it would take a few months to resolve this.

The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.

Watch: Police tell Manchester Airport passengers their holidays are cancelled amid travel chaos

Passengers queue for flights at Heathrow Airport. Would-be travellers have labelled queues at Heathrow
Travellers have labelled queues at Heathrow "bloody chaos". (PA)
Passengers queue for flights at Heathrow Airport. Would-be travellers have labelled queues at Heathrow
British Airways is continuing to cancel dozens of flights each day. (PA)

Read more: Vueling flight ‘took off without any passengers’ because of Gatwick delays

Jeans told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme: “Well it’s going to be a while before they get better, let me say that, there’s no point in being unrealistic.

“It won’t be I think as bad as this peak weekend, this very, very busy Jubilee weekend, but (yes), I unfortunately see things happening through the summer.”

On Tuesday, Tui Airways said it was cancelling 200 flights due to serve Manchester Airport between now and the end of June as the chaos faced by UK holidaymakers worsened.

The airline announced passengers suffered long delays in recent days due to staff shortages.

EasyJet cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick on Tuesday.

British Airways continues to cancel dozens of flights each day, although the airline said passengers are being told several days in advance.

Jeans added: “To let people get to an airport and then say I’m sorry we can’t deal with it, is – not ideal, so no we’ve got to plan, we’ve got to plan better, resource better and basically make sure that these kind of things which are putting people off travel do not reoccur throughout the summer.”

Airlines and airports repeatedly called for more financial support during the COVID-19 crisis as government travel restrictions suppressed demand.

They are now struggling to recruit new workers and have their security checks processed.

Watch: Family shares heartbreak over cancelled holiday as flight delays continue

Passengers queue for flights at Heathrow Airport. Would-be travellers have labelled queues at Heathrow
The problems are expected to last the whole summer. (PA)
Passengers queue for flights at Heathrow Airport. Would-be travellers have labelled queues at Heathrow
Many flights have been cancelled. (PA)

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Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh accused the government of being “missing in action”.

She said: “They should show some responsibility, do their job, and take concrete steps to tackle the chaos growing on their watch.”

Last month, transport secretary Grant Shapps introduced legislation to allow new aviation recruits to begin training before passing security checks to reduce the time it takes for them to start work.

A government spokeswoman added: “The aviation industry is responsible for making sure they have enough staff to meet demand and we have been clear that they must step up recruitment to make sure disruption is kept to a minimum.

“In addition, using our post-Brexit freedoms, we have changed the law to provide the sector with more flexibility when training new employees, which will help it to fill vacancies more quickly.

“We have also worked with Border Force to ensure preparations meet passenger demand.”

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