Tuesday 7 June 2022 08:22 AM UK airport chaos: EasyJet cancels more flights at Gatwick and Luton trends now
Thousands of British holidaymakers again faced chaos at UK airports today as easyJet cancelled dozens more flights, while other families stranded in Europe were scrambling to find alternative ways of getting home.
Travellers crossed borders instead of waiting for later flights as they raced to return to work and school after half-term, with many spending hundreds of pounds for new flights or other modes of transport such as Eurostar trains.
Among them were teachers needing to get back to the classroom and A-level pupils who risk missing exams after easyJet cancelled more than 300 flights across Europe in the past three days, with more than 2,000 delayed.
EasyJet cancelled 27 flights today, including 22 at Gatwick and seven at Luton. The Gatwick departures were flights to Amsterdam, Luqa, Rijeka, Copenhagen, Bastia, Nantes, Milan and Bordeaux - and the arrivals were from Gran Canaria, Pafos, Lanzarote, Kos, Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Rijeka, Luqa, Bastia, Nantes, Bordeaux and Milan.
Wizz Air also cancelled two arrivals at Gatwick from Tel Aviv and Faro. At Luton, there were three easyJet arrivals cancelled from Amsterdam, Lisbon and Palermo; and four departures to Bristol, Amsterdam, Lisbon and Palermo.
UK airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months due to a lack of staff after the companies let thousands of people go during the pandemic. Airlines, airports and ground handling firms are now struggling to recruit new staff and have their security checks processed amid a surge in demand since restrictions were lifted.
BRISTOL AIRPORT: Huge queues once again this morning at Bristol Airport which has been badly hit by the airport chaos
MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Large queues at Manchester Airport this morning as the airport chaos continues to affect tourists
EasyJet said last night that it will continue to axe at least 30 flights a day with passengers set to typically receive just three days' notice.
Dozens of the cancellations were made at the last minute and affected customers said they were not being offered alternative flights home for several days.
Jenny O'Hara and her partner should have been back at work yesterday and their three sons at primary school.
Instead, they faced being stuck in the Canary Islands for another week after easyJet suddenly cancelled their return flight and left them struggling to find somewhere to stay on the busy resort.
Jenny O'Hara and her partner Tom with sons Harrison, Rupert and Elyott who are now stuck in the Canary Islands
Miss O'Hara, a project manager from Crowborough, East Sussex, flew to Fuerteventura last Monday for a five-day Tui holiday along with sons Elyott, 11, and Rupert, eight, plus partner Tom Nowell, 37, a marketing manager, and his son Harrison, nine.
But when they arrived at the airport on Saturday for their flight home, they were shocked to see it displayed as cancelled.
Airline staff arranged for one night's accommodation and told them the next available tickets would be on Friday – meaning they would miss a whole week of work and school. She said: 'It's been a nightmare end to the holiday. We feel like easyJet have abandoned us. I can't believe how we've been left to fend for ourselves like this.'
Determined to get home sooner, they booked a new flight from Lanzarote scheduled for tomorrow – leaving them out of pocket by more than £1,000 as they also had to pay for another three nights' accommodation plus the ferry transfer.
Tui said it had not been made aware of the cancellation by easyJet and the airline apologised for the incident.
This is despite them having the right to be booked on an alternative flight as close to their original departure time as possible – even if it is with a rival airline. They are also entitled to food and hotel expenses.
But easyJet customers said it was near impossible to contact customer services in search of answers.
Budget airline Wizz Air also made dozens of cancellations over the weekend.
British Airways axed more than 100 short-haul flights at Heathrow yesterday, although it stressed that affected passengers were informed several weeks in advance.
Holiday firm Tui is cancelling six daily flights at Manchester until the end of the month.
The aviation industry is struggling to cope with the post-pandemic rise in demand for foreign travel at a time of severe staff shortages.
Some operators were accused of letting passengers make bookings that could not be fulfilled.
Father-of-four Joe Murray, from Milton Keynes, booked return flights to Tenerife which were due to land back in the UK tomorrow in time for Platinum Jubilee celebrations.
But his family missed the four-day weekend after Wizz Air cancelled their return flight twice.
Mr Murray, who has four young daughters, said: 'The curriculum is packed and losing three days from school post-Covid isn't good. There isn't time to really catch up.
'Wizz Air have had since last Wednesday to get us home, have cancelled once while we had checked in and were waiting at the gate, and the other four hours before the flight. It's not good enough.'
Kelly, a teacher from Lincolnshire, and her husband, who is also a teacher, had their flight home from Montenegro with easyJet cancelled at the last minute on Saturday.
They were told Thursday was the earliest they could get back to the UK. She told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: 'They told us we could have a flight on Thursday.
'But obviously we're teachers so we're very keen to get back to school so there's less disruption for the children, which is why we're travelling to a different country [to try to get home sooner].
'We will have had three bus journeys of about 12 hours in total. Fingers crossed tomorrow easyJet won't cancel our flight for a second time and we'll manage to get home.
'But we're having to fly into Bristol rather than Gatwick, we've then got to get to Gatwick [to collect our car] and then back home to Lincoln.'
A blame game broke out between ministers and the industry over the fiasco last week.
Aviation chiefs sought to point the finger at the Government for not giving enough notice when lifting all Covid travel restrictions in March.
BIRMINGHAM AIRPORT: Huge queues for security at Birmingham Airport at 5am this morning as the airport chaos continues
GATWICK AIRPORT: Huge queues for check-in on Ryanair flights at London Gatwick Airport this morning
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps accused carriers of 'poor planning and overbooking flights that they cannot service'.
After Clare and Christian Engelke's flight home from Berlin to London Luton was cancelled, the couple resorted to borrowing a car and driving through the night to get to work by lunchtime.
When easyJet informed them in a text message on Sunday lunchtime that their 10.55pm flight had been cancelled, there were no alternative flights available until tomorrow.
Clare and Christian Engelke, pictured on holiday in Berlin
Needing to get back to work and pick up their 15-year-old daughter – who had been staying with relatives – from school on their return to Codsall near Wolverhampton yesterday, they embarked on an 850-mile overnight dash.
They had to spend £180 on fuel and £178 on the Eurotunnel, and also then had to pick up their car in Luton after paying £10 to extend the parking.
In addition, the couple – who only flew out on Friday to visit friends – still have the car borrowed from company director Mr Engelke's German parents.
Mrs Engelke, a freelance marketing consultant, said the volume of cancellations had been 'crazy'.
'We are lucky we have mobile phones and used our initiative to call on lovely friends who we met in Berlin – seeing them for the first time in three years due to the pandemic – and family in Germany who have lent us a car to get us home,' she said. 'We now have a German car in England that we have to take back eventually.'
There are fears of even worse chaos when the peak summer season begins in around six weeks' time.
Ministers are considering plans to force airlines to give automatic refunds for travel disruption.
Affected travellers, who must apply for compensation manually, have reported waiting several weeks to receive money back.
Some operators have claimed cancellations or delays are not their fault, meaning they are not liable.
Travel consultancy The PC Agency estimated that at least 15,000 passengers were affected by 'last-minute changes' to flights on Sunday.
Chief executive Paul Charles said this caused 'major knock-on effects' and 'it will take three days to clear the backlog'.
He said: 'We're now seeing the impact of the weekend's cancellations with knock-on effects for tens of thousands of travellers.
'So many flights were never rescheduled after the pandemic, so there often isn't the frequency of flights to get passengers back quickly if they are affected.
'We're going to see a large number of compensation claims from those stuck abroad.
'Sadly it can take three days to get flights back to normal and get people back.'
Downing Street said ministers and officials had been meeting with aviation industry leaders and Border Force to increase 'resilience for the sector throughout the summer' to avert further travel chaos.
But the Prime Minister's official spokesman said it was