Half-term getaway hell continues: Passengers face huge queues

Half-term getaway hell continues: Passengers face huge queues at Bristol and Gatwick from 4AM after hundreds of flights were cancelled over the weekend and ferries hit by four-hour jams

  • This morning Bristol and Gatwick seemed to have fallen prey to the worst of queues for desperate passengers
  • EasyJet and TUI axed hundreds of flights and BA passengers have been told to drop bags off a whole day early
  • Bristol Airport this morning featured queues outside of the building for passengers just trying to get in
  • Gatwick Airport had ‘long and snaking’ lines for those attempting to drop off their bags before their flights
  • Have you been hit by lengthy travel delays and queues? E-mail: [email protected] with yours

Travel chaos engulfing Britain’s airports continued unabated this morning – as disgruntled passengers were forced to queue just to get in.

The jam-packed outdoor lines formed outside Bristol’s terminals from 4am under the sky as the day dawned.

And 140 miles away at Gatwick passengers said they too were enduring ‘long and snaking’ queues just to reach their planes.

It came after easyJet had cancelled more than 200 flights to or from Gatwick between May 28 and June 6.    

One Bristol passenger wrote online: ‘Queue to get in the terminal at 5:15 at Bristol Airport. At least the sky is pretty.’

Another passenger railed: ‘Only half the security lanes open and not fast track.

‘Two hours to get through. Queues started 300m on road outside.’

Meanwhile at Gatwick one airport user posted a picture of a heavy line just to get to the baggage drop.

Bristol Airport was again hit by lengthy lines as people tried to catch their planes to leave the UK for foreign climes on holiday

There were large queues at Gatwick just after 5am too as numbers of passengers gave staff much to do as holidays began

Airports have struggled with the influx of people wanting to use them after the pandemic saw staff reduced. Pictured Bristol

Bristol Airport this morning featured queues outside of the building for passengers just trying to get inside the terminal

Problems also hit people trying to leave the UK via Dover – with some reporting four hour delays due to a lack of open French border control booths.

The difficulties reared their head first on Sunday as P&O Ferries said delays were “out of their control” and hinted French border police were responsible.

On Saturday hundreds of Tui passengers were in uproar at Manchester airport after they were told their trips were cancelled after an eight-hour wait, with police called to deal with scenes.

Meanwhile people also reported ‘shambolic’ scenes of ‘carnage’ at Bristol airport, and easyJet has cancelled more than 200 flights to or from Gatwick between May 28 and June 6.

Holidaymakers’ travel plans for the Jubilee celebrations have also been thrown into disarray after a ‘shambolic’ weekend of flight cancellations.

Drivers have been warned to expect long delays on popular routes during the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday period with nearly 20 million getaway journeys are planned.

The RAC estimated that 19.5 million leisure trips by road will take place between Wednesday and Sunday.

A survey of 1,460 drivers’ travel plans indicated that Friday is likely to be the most congested day on the roads as day-trippers combine with families returning home from half-term breaks.

Police called on Saturday as ‘hundreds’ of TUI passengers told by TEXT their holiday is cancelled after ‘eight-hour’ waits at Manchester Airport

The half-term has got off to an awkward start for holidaymakers with hundreds of cancelled flights

Passengers queue for check-in yesterday at Manchester airport at terminal 2 as the half term holiday gateway begins

And there were mass queues at Dover as traffic backed-up on the A20, with one passenger waiting in the queue for four hours. Picture from May 27

At Heathrow airport, a spokesperson said they are expecting high numbers throughout half-term

Stars are also grounded in plane take-off delay

John Bishop and Damian Lewis bemoaned flight delays

Stars John Bishop and Damian Lewis also found themselves at the centre of travel delays over the weekend.

The pair were at the Champions League final in Paris and had managed to get a charter jet home to the UK.

But their good fortune quickly turned to misfortune after delays to the plane’s take-off.

In the end they were over six hours late to leave France after being stuck on the tarmac.

At one point the pair went in the cockpit to joke they were going to fly it themselves to try and get home.

Bishop said: ‘I managed to get a seat on a club charter flight from Paris.

‘This felt like a win when I got on with Damian Lewis. More than 5 hours later and we have not moved.

‘I wish I had got the train.’

Lewis joined in ‘Make that 6 hours me and John Bishop Day 2 in the Big Brother House’

On Sunday as Bristol airport customers revealed seven-hour delays and devastated passengers at Manchester were grounded on the runway, as TUI told ‘hundreds’ of passengers their holidays were cancelled through text message.

Holidaymakers waiting at the Manchester airport were left hungry, with children ‘screaming and crying’ as their flights faced delays.

Sharon Marie was travelling with her partner on a TUI flight to Paphos at the weekend. It was due to depart from Manchester at 5.30pm, but by 8pm they had still not heard an announcement for its new departure time, and were told it was delayed until tomorrow.

She told the Manchester Evening News that they moved from ‘queue to queue’ in the airport for more than six hours.

‘We were then told we had to wait for our luggage and be escorted out of the airport as our flight has been cancelled to 12pm tomorrow [Monday],’ Ms Marie added. ‘We are being sent home with luggage at a cost to ourselves to return and go through the whole process again. We are tired, hungry and fed up.’

‘There are so many eateries just not open at all, we were told many had ran out of food so they had to close. It is just unbelievable that families aren’t able to get anything to eat,’ she told the news site.

‘There were so many children screaming and crying and people just wondering what on earth was going on.

‘People are tired, hungry and stressed. It is shambolic.’  

Now traffic information supplier Inrix advised drivers to set off either before 6am or after 3pm to avoid the worst of the traffic.

The M25 anticlockwise from Junction 17 at Maple Cross Interchange, Hertfordshire to Junction 12 at Thorpe Interchange, Surrey has been highlighted as a likely congestion hotspot.

Another is the A303 running past Stonehenge, Wiltshire, which is a popular route for holidaymakers travelling towards the South West.

Some 37% of respondents to a separate RAC poll said they will not be driving long distances over the weekend.

Of those people, 11% attributed this to high fuel prices.

RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘Drivers clearly see a double bank holiday this close to the summer as a gift with so millions eager to make the most of it – although many appear keen to keep their car journeys short, perhaps mixing a daytrip or two with a Jubilee celebration at home.

Bristol Airport, North Somerset, UK. 28th May 2022. Bristol airport was compared to a ‘zoo’, with its crowded terminal the site of yet more chaos and confusion. Meanwhile in Manchester, TUI passengers were told their trips were cancelled via text

‘The fact the bank holidays coincide with the end of half-term in many places has the potential to put some extra pressure on the road network, so planning a journey carefully is important to beat the worst of any queues.’

He urged drivers to carry out essential checks on their vehicles before setting off, such as making sure oil, coolant and screen wash levels are correct, and tyres are properly inflated and free from damage.

‘A bit of TLC now could make the difference between a straightforward trip and one beset by a breakdown,’ he added.

UK airports will also be busy with more than 10,000 flights departing between Thursday and Sunday, according to aviation data firm Cirium.

That is a three-fold increase on the same period last year, when the UK’s coronavirus travel restrictions remained in place.

Network Rail normally carries out widespread engineering work during bank holidays, but nearly all major lines will remain open during the Jubilee celebrations.

One posted: ‘Bristol Zoo, sorry airport was the same for the Mrs on Friday. She made her flight only because it was delayed’

Chief executive Andrew Haines said: ‘We are really pleased to say that all routes into London’s major stations will be open across the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee bank holiday weekend.

‘We know that demand will be high as people travel into the capital to celebrate this special occasion and our station staff will be on hand to welcome passengers and help them with their journeys.

‘Of course, we are still carrying out hundreds of important projects to upgrade the railway, but the majority of these will have no impact on passenger or freight services.

‘As ever I’d like to thank the countless railway staff who will be out delivering upgrades or who will be working hard to keep services running for passengers.’

Aisha Marzouq, who was due to fly to Kuwait City from Manchester with Kuwait Airways, was left sat on the plane for more than four hours.

She also shared images of empty vending machines at the airport.

Keith Barrett, from Hazel Grove, Stockport, was due to flight to Antalya this evening for a family holiday.

He discovered that their group of 15 had been delayed, and would not depart until tomorrow.

‘We’ve not been away for three years, he told the news site. ‘We’ve been queuing for two hours and all of a sudden they say they have technical problems and we can’t fly today. They’ve said they will text us with a flight time for tomorrow.’ 

In a statement, Manchester Airport apologised for the disruption, and said that delays at check-in and baggage reclaim are the responsibility of airlines and ground handling firms, which run their own services.

It added that staff are ‘in contact with the senior management teams of the relevant airlines and ground handlers’ to ‘understand the cause of these issues’. 

A holidaymaker at Bristol Airport said that his 2pm flight to Gran Canaria had been delayed for seven hours, and wasn’t scheduled to leave until 8.55pm. 

Yesterday, TUI told ‘hundreds’ of passengers that their holidays are cancelled over text following ‘eight-hour’ airport wait as hundreds of trips are axed amid half-term travel chaos.

Bristol Airport also urged passengers not to arrive too early to avoid congestion, but passengers described severe waiting times this morning with few staff on the ground

Couple Seren Rounds, 27, and Adam Howells, 29, of Caerleon, south Wales, are on the verge of postponing their wedding after their flight to Cyprus was scrapped

Passengers who had waited for eight hours — four during check-in and security, and four ‘waiting for a pilot’ — were told by text that their trips were scrapped.

One family was told that their trip, including flights and an all-inclusive hotel, were cancelled. 

Helen, from Sale, Cheshire, was travelling to Kos with her husband and teenage daughter. They have been left appalled by the treatment, they say. ‘It’s utter, utter chaos,’ she said. 

‘There has been hardly any staff here. Everyone got a text from TUI saying their holidays have been cancelled and to go home. 

‘The check-in girls knew nothing, we found out before they did. And they were left to deal with hundreds of passengers complaining, a full flight’s worth. 

‘The police had to come in and make an announcement, a holidaymaker was arrested and was in handcuffs. 

‘We have had to go back through security, show our passports, even though we’d never left the airport.’

‘All the passengers are really angry, there’s children crying. We’ve taken the week off work, my daughter is off school – she’d been looking forward to this holiday, bought new clothes and everything. We expected it to be bad at Manchester Airport but everyone is in shock at how bad it actually is. The police had to unload people’s suitcases because there were no staff to do it.’ 

A spokesperson for TUI said: ‘We’d like to apologise to customers impacted by cancellations and delays this weekend, caused by various operational and supply chain issues.

‘We’d like to reassure customers that we are doing everything we can to minimise delays and would like to thank them their patience and understanding during this time.’

Yesterday’s troubled flight to Kos, out of Terminal 2, was supposed to take off at 3.45pm but angry ticketholders say they would have missed the flight anyway due to queues ‘out of the building’ to check-in. 

George Sharp said his daughter had travelled from Bradford for their holiday to Kos – on the same flight as Helen – and had been queuing since 12pm. They were at the gate ready to board the flight when they received a text from TUI saying their £4,500 trip was cancelled. 

‘It was like circumstances I’ve never ever heard of before,’ George said. ‘They went to board and then they cancelled not just the flight but the entire holiday. TUI staff refused to face up to anyone and the police arrived to tell them to go back through security to collect their bags and go home. 

‘She just got married two years ago so all they’ve known is Covid since they got married in March 2020 and this was supposed to be a big reset for them and to help them get back to normality. They were with a five-year-old little girl and it’s just horrendous. They were just heartbroken and confused. 

‘It’s hard to console her, because what can you say? They had only just got their passports two days ago so they’ve been stressed to bits over that. It’s just been one thing after another. To be at the airport for eight hours, face numerous delays and get ready to board to then be told that it’s over is just really upsetting for them all. There’s been no communication other than a text message.’ 

Jayesh Patel, from Manchester, was due to travel on the same flight to Kos with his wife and their three children, aged nine, 12 and 13. 

‘We arrived at the airport three hours before our flight, as advised, and the queue for the baggage at T2 was all along the sky bridge up to terminal one,’ Jayesh said.  

‘At 7.48pm, we received a text to tell us our entire holiday had been cancelled. There was nobody at the airport to speak to, but there was a lot of upset and frustration as we all received the text at the same time. 

‘We all then had to go back through passport control, which was ironic as we hadn’t gone anywhere, and back into arrivals to wait for our luggage which was already on the plane. 

‘People were visibly upset and children were crying. We then had to wait another couple of hours and at this point, we’d spent the whole day at the airport and just wanted to leave. ‘ 

Jayesh said all passengers were offered a full refund on their flights, £350 in compensation and a £200 holiday voucher, but he says he would rather the voucher was in cash. 

‘Realistically, I’m not sure we want to book another holiday with TUI at this point,’ he explained. 

‘We’ve travelled with TUI in the past – before the pandemic – but I’ve got no confidence in them at this point. I can’t see these problems being solved in the short-term either so I think I would rather just have the cash, instead of a voucher, so we can book elsewhere.’ 

Speaking about what he and his family now plan to do with their week off, he said they will just spend time together as it looks like they will be unable to book somewhere last minute. 

He added: ‘We thought we’d be waking up this morning going out to have a Greek breakfast somewhere near the beach, but it wasn’t meant to be.’ 

A spokesperson for TUI said: ‘We would like to apologise for the inconvenience to our customers on flight TOM2680 from Manchester and Kos, on Saturday 28th May who were delayed to a combination of factors causing significant operational disruption. 

‘Unfortunately, we felt the impact to customers’ holidays was too great and took the difficult decision to cancel the flight. We contacted affected customers as soon as we became aware of the change and all customers will receive a full refund within 14 days. We understand how disappointing and frustrating this is and we do apologise for any inconvenience caused.’

Bristol airport was compared to a ‘zoo’, with its crowded terminal the site of yet more chaos and confusion. 

Elsewhere, one Twitter user wrote: ‘Bristol Zoo, sorry airport was the same for the Mrs on Friday. She made her flight only because it was delayed.

‘Try employing more people, even on a temporary basis to cover the holidays. Oh come great asteroid!’

Meanwhile, a British Airways flight from the Italian city of Cagliari to Gatwick planned for 11:30am has been delayed until at least 7pm, leaving mothers and young children stranded in a small airport with no explanation given for the delay and no access to baby milk or sanitary products.

Bristol Airport also urged passengers not to arrive too early to avoid congestion, but passengers described severe waiting times this morning with few staff on the ground.

A TUI flight from Bristol to Paphos, Cyprus, was also delayed by eight hours yesterday and then cancelled in the evening.  Among the passengers were 34 wedding guests including the bride and groom.

Yesterday, Seren Rounds, a primary school teacher, and her fiancé, electrician Adam Howells, are on the verge of postponing their wedding after their flight to Cyprus was scrapped.

Ms Rounds, 27, and Mr Howells, 29, of Caerleon, South Wales, have been planning their big day since 2020, but might be forced to postpone it after Tui cancelled their flight to Paphos.

34 guests were due to fly from Bristol on Saturday, with 11 guests already in Cyprus, but their 1.30pm outbound flight was first delayed and then cancelled.

The wedding is booked for Thursday June 2, but they have an appointment at a town hall on Monday.

Miss Rounds’ mother Lisa Trenchard said there is now ‘no way’ they can find flights for all 34 guests, so the wedding is ‘ruined’.

Ms Trenchard, 55, a health visiting manager from Caerleon, said: ‘We have families with babies and a devastated bride and groom to be.’

She added: ‘Absolutely I blame Tui, not necessarily for the initial problem, but their lack of visibility and compassion, and how they have taken the easy option to cancel.’ 

Meanwhile, one traveller stranded in Cagliari, Italy told of how her 11:30am British Airways flight to Gatwick has been delayed until at least 7pm with no communication from the airline.

‘We are at Cagliari airport in Sardinia and our BA flight is going to be over seven hours delayed. Absolutely no communication on why,’ she told MailOnline.

‘No one in the whole airport seems to have any idea what’s going on and no BA employees to be seen… No communication at check in that the flight was severely delayed, despite the fact they would have known because the plane hadn’t even taken off from Gatwick. Shambles.

‘Tiny airport too so nowhere for anyone to buy any milk, baby food or nappies even though we’ve all been here since 9.30am for an 11.30 flight – now allegedly taking off at 7pm. 

‘Loads of babies and young kids on the flight so everyone is losing their minds.’

A British Airways representative said the extensive delay was due to a technical concern with the aircraft in question and a different plane was needed to operate the flight.

At the weekend, travellers made complaints about further delays at Bristol Airport.

RedChris 1964 tweeted: ‘Chaos at Bristol Airport this morning, people been sat over three hours on planes waiting to take off due to luggage handler shortage. All departures [have been] taken off the website info.’

Baron Von Jasper posted: ‘Over two hours stuck on the tarmac at Bristol Airport because they firstly hasn’t taken off the luggage from the inbound flight and then nobody to remove the stairs and push us back. Massive delays.’

Luca Goddard added: ‘I’ve have been sat on an aeroplane here at Bristol Airport for three hours and it hasn’t moved. The captain has just told us that this is due to there only being one team on air traffic control today!’

Across the country, scores of holidaymakers faced travel chaos after Tui axed a ‘small number’ of flights and easyJet announced it would scrap more than 200 over the next 10 days. 

Mother-of-one Sunita Ramjee, 50, of Swansea, Wales, said she spent £6,000 on tickets to take her daughter, 19, and brother to the Grand Prix in Monaco for his 40th birthday present.

They were meant to be flying from London Gatwick to Nice on Friday, but the flight was delayed and then cancelled while they were at the airport.

She says there were no alternative flights available because of the Grand Prix and the Champions League final in Paris on Saturday.

Ms Ramjee said: ‘We had tickets to the Grand Prix and now easyJet has cancelled my flight and I’m not going to get a refund (for the Formula One tickets).

‘I’m really disappointed in the way it was handled. Nobody helped us to try and figure out alternative flights or make hotel bookings.

‘It is something my daughter has been looking forward to since we moved to the UK, it was my brother’s 40th birthday present.’

Michele Farmer, 56, tweeted: ‘Our easyJet flight to Naples at 5.30pm, yes, in less than an hour’s time has been cancelled.

‘We’ve been sent through baggage collection with luggage thrown on the floor now standing outside Bristol Airport.

‘No help. Poor on every level.’

She was meant to be taking her daughter Madeleine for a half-term holiday they booked for the same week in 2020.

A Tui spokesman said: ‘We would like to apologise for the inconvenience to customers who have experienced flight delays or a flight cancellations.

‘Delays have been caused due to a combination of factors and we are doing everything we can to keep customers updated, and will provide refreshments and, where appropriate, provide hotel accommodation.

‘Where we have made the difficult decision to cancel a small number of flights, customers will receive a full refund within 14 days and we will contact them directly to help them try and find another holiday.’

An easyJet spokesman said: ‘We have taken the decision to make advance cancellations of around 24 Gatwick flights per day starting from May 28 until June 6.

‘We are very sorry for the late notice of some of these cancellations and inconvenience caused for customers booked on these flights, however we believe this is necessary to provide reliable services over this busy period.’

Passengers blasted the service at Manchester Airport yesterday as ‘carnage’ as the half-term holidays begun

A Bristol Airport spokesman said: ‘The Bristol Airport team and business partners are working hard to ensure all customers have a smooth and easy journey through the terminal. 

‘For early morning flight departures we are seeing customers arriving five hours prior to flight departure, adding to the congestion in the terminal. This is something we have not experienced before. 

‘When customers are queuing before check-in and security opens it provides a negative customer experience for everyone, and one we want to avoid. We advise all customers to arrive in the terminal when their check-in opens, this helps us to manage resources and gets customers on their way quickly and efficiently as possible. 

‘Each day over 80 per cent of customers experience less than a 20-minute security queue time, it is only during peak flight operations we extend beyond this.

‘We have already made a positive start recruiting new colleagues across the business and it is great to see so many new colleagues joining the team ahead of the busy summer.’ 

Passengers queue in the underground car park outside terminal 1 yesterday at Manchester Airport

In an announcement on Friday, Easyjet said cancellations would affect about 24 flights per day from London’s Gatwick airport between May 28 and June 6.

It added the cancellations were ‘necessary to provide reliable services over this busy period’.

It comes after a software failure forced EasyJet to cancel around 200 flights on Thursday.

A spokeswoman for the company said in a statement: ‘We have taken the decision to make advance cancellations of around 24 Gatwick flights per day starting from May 28 until June 6.

‘We are very sorry for the late notice of some of these cancellations and inconvenience caused for customers booked on these flights, however we believe this is necessary to provide reliable services over this busy period.

‘Customers are being informed from Friday and provided with the option to rebook their flight or receive a refund and can apply for compensation in line with regulations.

‘Over the next week we will be operating around 1,700 flights per day, with around a quarter of these operating to and from Gatwick.’

Nicola Caine (left), 37, from Cheshire, was due to fly from Manchester Airport to Tenerife on Monday in a group of 13 with her husband, children and several family members. They were booked on the EZY1903 easyJet flight to Tenerife South for a seven-day holiday, which cost around £2,500

‘We notified customers of their options to rebook or receive a refund directly via email and SMS. While this was outside of our control, we are sorry for any inconvenience caused and we have been in touch with Mr Bruce to provide a full refund.’

On Friday, Liverpool FC supporters travelling to the Champions League final and families embarking on half-term getaways faced long queues at the Port of Dover and UK airports.

Thousands of fans descended on the Kent port on Friday to board cross-Channel ferries en route to Paris for Saturday’s match.

Airline passengers were also stuck in lengthy queues at airports such as Gatwick, Manchester, Stansted and Bristol.

There is also high demand for sailings from families embarking on trips to the continent for half-term.

The port advised passengers to ‘pack adequate supplies including food and water’ as it is expecting ‘a very busy week ahead’.

At Heathrow airport, a spokesperson said they are expecting high numbers throughout half-term. 

‘While the travel experience may take slightly longer during peak periods, we have been preparing for this for many months,’ they said. 

‘Additional colleagues will be on hand to support passengers, and we will continue working closely with all our airport partners to get people away on their journeys as smoothly as possible.’ 

Huge queues at airports for families hoping to go on half-term breaks

The half-term getaway for families in Britain ground to a halt on Friday as thousands faced huge queues at airports across the country amid widespread staffing shortages – with more than 30,000 easyJet passengers also affected by hundreds of flight cancellations.

Airports in the UK are still struggling to recover from Covid restrictions and are struggling to hire enough staff to meet surging demand while Britain faces a tight labour market with more vacancies than job-seekers. 

Compounding the problem, an IT crash hitting easyJet left the holiday plans of families in the lurch. The airline cancelled 14 more flights to and from London Gatwick Airport after calling off more than 200.

There were queues of passengers at London Heathrow Airport on Friday morning as families aimed to go on their half-term holidays

Liverpool football fans hoping to reach the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Paris were also faced chaotic journeys after flights to the French capital were axed from Manchester and Bristol.

Other fliers suffered more than 360 delays with routes such as Belfast to Corfu and Liverpool to Dalaman also affected by the disruption, which poses a serious threat to families’ half-term holidays if the issue reoccurs.

Those jetting off from Gatwick, Bristol and Manchester airports have been among the worst hit, with travellers describing scenes of chaos during and either side of the two hours when the IT failure hit on Thursday at 1pm.

There were also huge queues Luton and Heathrow on Friday morning, and the Unite union warned that the problems could continue next week and even get worse during the summer holidays because of staff shortages.

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