Brits brace for Easter getaway chaos as mini heatwave set to sweep across UK

11 April 2022, 12:40 | Updated: 12 April 2022, 00:46

Travellers face petrol shortages, congestion and huge queues at airports across the country as the UK is set to bask in a mini-heatwave.
Travellers face petrol shortages, congestion and huge queues at airports across the country as the UK is set to bask in a mini-heatwave. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Holidaymakers are being warned to expect travel chaos when millions of people set off for four-day trips over the Easter weekend - while those who stay at home could bask in 22C heat.

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Misery on the roads and at airports is expected to get worse this weekend as families head off to enjoy an extended break over the bank holiday weekend.

The RAC has warned it could be the busiest weekend for car travel in at least eight years, with motorists being urged to drive at night if they can.

Anyone driving between 9am and 7.30pm - particularly on Bank Holiday Friday - is expected to be caught in severe traffic.

The warning comes as forecasters have predicted the warmest weekend of the year so far, with highs of 22C expected in some southern parts of the UK.

Met Office meteorologist Annie Shuttleworth said despite the heat, the North West will also experience some lingering cloud, making eastern areas the best destination for sun-seekers over the weekend.

"If people are travelling for sunshine, then further eastern areas are more likely to see that brighter weather," she said.

"I think in the main for the bank holiday weekend, we'll see temperatures quite widely above average across the UK and hopefully they could be very warm in the South East in particular.

"Warmer than average certainly, but nowhere near heatwave criteria.

"It will definitely be warmer than the week we've just had and last week."

The warmest temperature of the year so far has been 20.8C, meaning the highs predicted for the South East on the weekend would set a new record for 2022.

Warm weather is set to continue throughout the week, with dry conditions expected for most of the country ahead of the bank holiday.

It comes as airports face extreme delays and numerous flight cancellations caused by staffing issues, with passengers complaining of hours-long waits.

Travellers have taken to social media to share photos of packed airports and stationary baggage carousels.

One Twitter user branded it a "shambles", writing: "Who's in charge at Gatwick. 3 people at passport control and just been told there’s a 3 hour wait to reclaim baggage!!!!!! What a shambles. It's not like these planes have just turned up unannounced."

Another wrote: "4 hour flight and seems longer waiting for the luggage carousel to start! #Gatwick the worst airport? Certainly seems so to me."

A Gatwick Airport spokesperson said: "The terminals may be busy and some queues may form during peak periods, such as weekends and the Easter holidays, when we see the airport returning toward 2019 passenger levels.

"Gatwick is therefore advising passengers to arrive at the earliest time their airline allows to check-in - and to make sure they know what they can and cannot carry through security before arriving at the airport.

"Passengers are also reminded to check that their passports are still valid - and have enough time left on them for the country being visited – and to check the foreign travel advice for all countries they will visit, or pass through, well in advance of travel."

The spokesperson added that baggage reclaim was handled by individual airlines, and that the majority of passengers have waited under 10 minutes at security since the start of April.

Manchester Airport is also anticipating delays, telling passengers to arrive as early as their airline allows.

"As we continue to recover from the pandemic and passenger numbers grow, security queues may be longer than usual at times," read a message on the airport's Twitter account.

"We apologise to our customers who have been impacted by the recent disruption.

"If you're due to travel soon, we're asking you to play your part

"Arrive at the earliest time your airline allows check-in.

"This is usually no more than three hours prior to your flight’s scheduled departure time.

"Passengers who turn up too far in advance may have to wait before check-in opens."

It comes after days of "devastating" travel mayhem at major airports including Manchester and Heathrow, caused partly by high levels of staff absence due to Covid.

Over 1,000 flights were cancelled last week, leading to huge queues that Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said may need to be handled by the emergency services.

One passenger arrived at the airport five hours early in the hope they would make it through security in time, and told LBC the travel disruption was "devastating" for a lot of people.

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On the roads the chaos continues, with one in three petrol stations in the south of England being forced to close on Sunday as a result of petrol supply issues.

The problems are thought to be partly the result of eco protesters blocking access to oil terminals in Hertfordshire, Essex and Warwickshire.

An estimated 1,200 pumps ran dry over the weekend, and the disruption to supply is not expected to abate any time soon.

Essex police said staffing the protests in Thurrock had cost the force "in excess of £1 million".

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Disruption on the road is set to worsen over the Bank Holiday weekend, with the RAC estimating it could be the busiest for car travel in at least eight years.

Motorists are being urged to drive at night if they can, with anyone driving between 9am and 7.30pm - particularly on Bank Holiday Friday - expected to be caught in severe traffic.

Traffic information supplier Inrix highlighted several likely congestion hotspots including the M6 north between J26 and J36, the M25 clockwise from J8 to J16, and the A303 near Stonehenge in Wiltshire.

It will likely be exacerbated by rail disruption as a result of staff sickness and planned engineering works.

Read more: 'Worst queues I’ve ever seen': Lorry drivers face 12-hour waits and '30 mile jam' at Dover

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Driving conditions are expected to be especially bad on roads in Kent, as a shortage of cross-Channel sailings caused by the suspension of P&O Ferries creates a bottleneck at the already-busy Port of Dover.

Last week drivers faced 12-hour waits on the roads approaching the port, with no access to food, water or toilets.