'Devastating': Easter airport shambles with 5 hour long queues and 1,000 flights cancelled

5 April 2022, 11:40 | Updated: 5 April 2022, 11:44

Easter holiday carnage has broken out in airports across the UK
Easter holiday carnage has broken out in airports across the UK. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Megan Hinton

Easter holiday carnage has broken out in airports across the UK as Covid sickness and staff shortages cause huge queues and flight cancellations.

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Jet setters desperate to embark on their holiday abroad have been left in limbo as more than 1,000 UK flights have been axed in recent days including 220 flights from budget airline EasyJet.

Huge queues began to form as early as 4.45am at Manchester Airport where local leaders have called for emergency services to help deal with the chaos.

Airlines have laid the blame at staff shortages caused by rising Covid cases, but analysts also believe job cuts made during the Covid crisis have contributed to airline and airport struggles.

EasyJet warned of more flight cancellations in the coming days after figures by Cirium, an aviation data group, said 1,143 flights in the UK were cancelled last week, compared to just 197 were called off in the same period in 2019, pre-pandemic.

British Airways called off 98 flights to or from Heathrow for Tuesday.

The rate of staff absences at easyJet is around double normal levels.

Read more: Easter travel chaos: TfL announces widespread Tube closures for bank holiday weekend

The situation has become so dire that firefighters and police officers could be called in to help manage the chaos, according to Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham.

The Mayor is set to meet the airport's management on Tuesday and told reporters yesterday: "I have been in touch with colleagues at Greater Manchester Police at the weekend to see what we can do to support the airport.

"It's a difficult moment for airports around the world having laid low for the pandemic, they've had to scale up very quickly. We understand the challenges that we've got.

"Can we work with our fire service and police service to do a little more to help the airport manage some of the pressures that it has? All of that will be discussed tomorrow."

Read more: Crews recover bodies of British dad and son, 9, killed in Australian landslide

The disruption is affecting many families heading abroad for the school Easter holiday, which is the first since the UK's coronavirus restrictions for international travellers were dropped.

Speaking to LBC's reporters one angry traveller said: "No one knows where to go to get through security, no one knows where to queue up to get their bags in. Ultimately we have a lot of customer services agents who are standing around who are just standing around."

Another sympathised with staff at the airport, telling LBC: "It is what it is. They are under staffed. Its not the staffs fault. They need more staff on. I’ve worked in security places and you can’t just drag them in off the street so they need to follow procedure to make everyone safe.

Whilst one family turned up five hours early in the hopes they will make it through security in time: "We have seen on the TV all the problems with flights, so we got here about five hours before the flight. It is devastating for a lot of people, we don’t live in England to be honest we are just flying back home, when we flew from Barcelona we had no problem at all."

Angry holiday makers took to social media to share their experience with one saying: "Manchester Airport security was "an absolute joke" to echo the pilots sentiments this morning.

"Has caused me to miss my connection flight and I won’t arrive in Athens until later this evening! I got to the airport 3 and a half hours before my gate opened."

Another described Manchester Airport as "bedlam" with queues up to "three miles long".

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: "This is a staggering level of flight cancellations caused by a cocktail of not having enough staff in place and Covid-induced staff shortages.

"Airlines are certainly seeing a high level of demand to fly, but are simply unable to cope with that demand due to a lack of resources.

"It's a nightmare situation for airlines and airports at the moment."

Aviation consultant John Strickland, of JLS Consulting, said last week that British Airways has "staff shortage issues coming out of the pandemic, and I know definitely that's something which is going to be more widespread with airlines because of the number of people who were let go".

Analysis by the London-based World Travel and Tourism Council published in December 2021 warned that one in eight UK travel and tourism jobs would be unfilled entering this year, with 205,000 vacant roles.

It claimed staff shortages could have an "enormous impact" on the UK's economic recovery from the pandemic.