Airlines still selling package holidays despite airport chaos over cancelled flights

1 June 2022, 00:54 | Updated: 1 June 2022, 20:25

Passengers have faced huge queues and delays or cancellations throughout Britain's airports
Passengers have faced huge queues and delays or cancellations throughout Britain's airports. Picture: Alamy/@BBlues60/Twitter

By Emma Soteriou

Airlines and holiday firms are still selling cut-price package holidays despite more than 160 flights being cancelled.

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As of 3pm, TUI was still selling seven-night self catered holidays to Palma de Mallorca for a family of four (two adults, two children) including flights for £429.

The company, which on Wednesday continued to cancel six daily flights from Manchester, totalling a quarter of its schedule from the airport, was also offering an inclusive package to Rhodes, Greece, for a family of four for £941.

EasyJet on Wednesday cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick, including to destinations such as Bologna, Barcelona, Prague, Krakow and Edinburgh.

But as of 3pm, the budget airline was still offering seven night package holidays to Cyprus for a family of four for £611 including a discount as part of a "Jubilee Flash Sale".

The budget airline was also last night pushing package holidays and offering customers a £100 discount if they booked by 11pm.

Other firms were on Wednesday continuing to advertise their package holidays on television and social media.

Shambolic scenes have broken out across the country's airports this week as travel firms buckle in the face of demand for post-Covid restriction getaways.

British Airways on Wednesday axed 124 short-haul flights at Heathrow.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Wednesday evening warned the aviation industry to end the "heartbreaking" scenes of airport chaos.

Mr Shapps saif airlines which have been affected by cancellations "need to learn" from those that have continued to run a smooth service.

He called for holiday firms to "do their bit" and warned that a desire to bounce back after the pandemic was "not an excuse" for overbooking and cancelling flights.

Mr Shapps also warned industry leaders that airlines should stop selling tickets for flights they cannot staff after personnel shortages at airports and airlines were blamed for the travel chaos.

Read more: Ministers slam airlines for 'completely unacceptable' cuts amid half-term hell at airports

Read more: Holiday misery for 34,000 Brits as TUI cancels six flights a day

As of 3pm, TUI was still selling seven-night self catered holidays to Palma de Mallorca for a family of four (two adults, two children) including flights for £429.
As of 3pm, TUI was still selling seven-night self catered holidays to Palma de Mallorca for a family of four (two adults, two children) including flights for £429. Picture: TUI
Police have been drafted in to help airlines deal with passengers
Police have been drafted in to help airlines deal with passengers. Picture: Alamy

Queues form at Birmingham Airport as half-term travel chaos continues

On Tuesday police had to retrieve hundreds of passengers from an aircraft left stranded on the tarmac of Manchester Airport, after the planned TUI flight was cancelled.

The passengers, who were supposed to be en route to Tenerife, had already been delayed for more than an hour and ground crew reportedly took so long to load their baggage that the flight was called off.

Police arrived to help the plane, which was left "abandoned" on the tarmac, by 10pm, after those on board had spent about three hours in the hot plane, the Manchester Evening News reported.

Adam Wyczalkowski, 22, who was travelling with friends on the Manchester to Tenerife flight, said: "People are just getting so frustrated and angry. It is so hot and there is no air con on and we were only offered a complimentary drink.

"There was not a single member of staff in sight, so the captain informed us they will be calling the police in order to let us disembark."

A TUI spokesperson said on Tuesday: "We’d like to apologise to customers travelling on flight TOM2106 from Manchester to Tenerife on Monday 30 May which was unfortunately delayed due to operational issues.

"We were in contact with affected customers, offered overnight accommodation and meals where needed, and advised them of their new departure time as soon as we could. This flight is now due to depart this evening.”

Swissport, which was loading the bags, apologised for its part in the delay, while Manchester Airport Group said "it is clear" TUI and Swissport "are experiencing temporary staffing shortages".

Aviation bosses have urged ministers to cut red tape to put a stop to travel chaos taking over airports across the UK.

They are said to be in crisis talks over accessing tax records that would help them to recruit more staff quickly.

But deputy prime minister Dominic Raab said the Government had supported the airline industry with £8bn during the pandemic and said they had been warned about a rise in holidaymakers.

He told LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast on Wednesday: "There have been regulatory changes to help with things like staff recruitment and we can always look at smart, pragmatic ways to go further, but fundamentally the travel companies in the way you describe have got to take responsibility for their recruitment.

"And yes there may be things we need to help them with and have helped them with but actually the transport secretary Grant Shapps has been talking to them about this and about being braced for the resurgent demand for months.

"Amid some of the finger pointing going on, those are the facts."

Raab refutes claims the government is to blame for airport queues

It comes as thousands of holidaymakers have faced travel misery during their half-term getaways, with long queues snaking through airports due to crippling staff shortages.

Industry figures said they want ministers to tweak employment rules so people can be validated for jobs using records held by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), according to the Times.

A source told the paper the request was "trying to address the fact that most people have had a number of small jobs with short-term contracts over the pandemic".

They added: "We often need a five-year job history and if we are having to check with 15 or 20 employers... always one or two don't come back to you."

Monbiot: Airlines preoccupied with lining pockets of shareholders

It comes as TUI announced it was cancelling six daily flights throughout June, causing more holiday misery for around 34,000 Brits.

Other airlines are also continuing to axe flights, and passengers are being forced to wait for hours at airports such as Manchester, Heathrow, Gatwick and Bristol.

Chaos reached a new level on Tuesday after police were drafted in to explain to customers that their flight had been cancelled.

Officers at Manchester Airport were left having to explain to disappointed holidaymakers that they would no longer be going away, and that they will get a refund and compensation.

One cop was filmed telling travellers he would be frustrated in their position too, and admitting he was unaware exactly why their holiday plans had been ruined.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed he would be meeting with industry leaders to find out "what's gone wrong", after the government provided £8 billion to the aviation industry in funding during the pandemic.

Conservative AM says airport standstill 'teething issues' post Covid

The Prospect union, which represents thousands of staff across air traffic control, in airports and in aviation engineering, said things could still get worse before they get better.

Garry Graham, its deputy general secretary, said: "Unions warned the government and aviation employers repeatedly that slashing staff through the crisis would lead to problems with the ramp-up post-pandemic.

"The government point to the furlough scheme but ignore that it ended well before the majority of international restrictions on travel came to an end.

"Now we see staff shortages across the industry, with huge reliance on overtime to get by day-to-day.

"In many areas, like air traffic control, overtime is only a temporary sticking plaster. So, things could get worse this summer before they get better."

Director of Cornwall Airport Newquay Tim Jeans also told LBC's Tom Swarbrick on Monday that he believed the disruption would continue into the summer.

"I can't pretend that it's going to be a bed of roses this summer," he said.

"We're going to have to do our level best to make sure the resources we've got are used effectively and appropriately to minimise delays for people - but I can't disguise the fact that it's going to be a difficult summer."