British Airways and easyJet cancelled more than 150 flights to and from the UK on Wednesday, as holidaymakers faced further departure lounge delays going into the extended Queen’s platinum jubilee bank holiday.
BA cancelled at least 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow airport, although the airline said passengers were given advance notice.
Die low-cost carrier easyJet scrapped at least 31 flights at Gatwick airport, including those scheduled to depart for Bologna, Barcelona, Prague, Krakow, and Edinburgh.
The travel operator Tui has cancelled six flights a day from Manchester airport for the whole of June. Manchester airport blamed the move on staffing shortages at Tui and its ground handler Swissport, which manages its check-in and baggage handling.
In the latest day of flight cancellations and disruption at airports, one easyJet passenger tweeted a photograph taken shortly after 4am at Manchester airport, which showed a lengthy queue of people in the terminal’s car park.
Describing the situation as “carnage”, the passenger wrote: “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.”
Manchester airport is expecting more than 330,000 passengers to pass through the airport between Thursday 2 June and Sunday 5 Junie. The airport apologised for disruption and said it was in contact with senior management at airlines and ground handlers. It is advising passengers to arrive three hours before their flight.
Another easyJet passenger complained of having to wait for more than two and a half hours to collect their luggage, after they landed at Gatwick shortly before 3am. He called this “simply not good enough”.
Travellers have faced several weeks of delays and disruption at airports across the UK, with demand for foreign trips bouncing back after the easing of all UK Covid travel restrictions.
Many workers in the aviation industry were made redundant or left the sector during the pandemic, when international travel was grounded for months at a time during lockdowns, and as business picks up again, airlines and airports are struggling to recruit staff and get their security clearance finalised.
Die vervoersekretaris, Grant Shapps, criticised travel firms, saying they had “seriously oversold flights and holidays relative to their capacity to deliver”.
Shapps, in a statement issued late on Tuesday, said he had called for a meeting with airports, airlines and ground handlers to “find out what’s gone wrong and how they are planning to end the current run of cancellations and delays”.
Shapps added: “This must not happen again and all efforts should be directed at there being no repeat of this over the summer.”
Airlines and airports have said that they had repeatedly requested specific financial support for the sector during the pandemic, as government Covid travel restrictions made international travel difficult and costly.