UK airports, ports and roads under pressure as half-term getaway begins

Half-term holidaymakers are navigating the busiest day at British airports since the start of the pandemic with some hit by further flight cancellations, while cross-Channel ferry passengers face long queues at Dover and drivers are warned to expect jams.

EasyJet cancelled 14 more flights at London Gatwick in the early morning peak, in the aftermath of IT problems on Thursday that took out 200 of its flights around Europe.

Egter, Gatwick said early check-in queues had cleared by the mid-morning, as it prepared for more than 800 flights and 120,000 passengers at the airport on Friday. Half-term holidays begin this weekend for the vast majority of schools across England and Wales.

The RAC issued a warning over congestion on motorways and major A roads as an estimated 17.9m leisure trips by road will be made between Friday and Sunday, with Saturday the busiest day.

Its spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Major routes to holiday destinations will start to clog up … Drivers can beat the worst of the queues by planning the time of their trips carefully. An early start is always best or, failing that, driving at dusk if that’s a feasible option.”

Intussen, passengers travelling to Europa via Dover – including thousands of Liverpool supporters heading to Paris for football’s Champions League final on Saturday night – were facing long queues at the port, at the start of the half-term getaway.

The Port of Dover advised passengers to pack supplies of food and water as it expected a “very busy week ahead”. Irish Ferries warned customers to expect delays of up to three hours at port security and check-in, and P&O Ferries warned of heavy traffic at border control. Passengers who miss sailings are normally accommodated on the next service.

Amper 8,000 flights will depart from UK airports this weekend, from Friday until Sunday, according to data from the analysts Cirium, with Friday seeing the highest number of scheduled departures since March 2020.

Despite the increase in passenger numbers coming on the back of Thursday’s cancellation chaos, Britain’s airports stressed they were coping with the increased demand.

A Gatwick spokesperson said: “Check-in areas are the responsibility of the airlines and, following some issues earlier today all check-in areas are currently operating smoothly. There have also been no significant queues for Gatwick security today – one of the busiest days we have seen for some time.”

'N easyJet spokesperson said the IT problems were rectified within a couple of hours on Thursday, “but unfortunately a small number of flights have been impacted this morning. Customers have been notified and provided with options to rebook or receive a refund. We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused.”

Manchester airport, where there have been some delays, said it was expecting a busy weekend – but that while queues in security had been as long as one hour early on Friday, they were now moving quickly. The airport is seeking to recruit hundreds of new security officers, after taking on 200 starters in the last month.

Unions warned that delays were likely to play out through half-term and could be worse in the summer holidays.

Unite, which represents tens of thousands of aviation workers, blamed airlines and aiports for laying off employees during the pandemic and paying low wages.

Its general secretary, Sharon Graham, gesê: “We warned this corporate greed would cause chaos in the industry. The aftermath of mass sackings is now chronic staff shortages across the board. Current pay and conditions in the industry are so poor that workers are voting with their feet.”

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