Britain's broken airports: Travel hell continues in race to return from half-term getaways

4 June 2022, 20:11 | Updated: 4 June 2022, 20:23

Aiports are packed as holidaymakers rush home while several outgoing flights have been cancelled.
Aiports are packed as holidaymakers rush home while several outgoing flights have been cancelled. Picture: Alamy/Twitter/Chris Evans

By Emma Soteriou

Chaos in the airports has continued into the bank holiday weekend as thousands of Brits rush back from their getaways.

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Frustrated travellers were left waiting hours for their luggage in airports across the UK on Saturday as half-term and the Jubilee bank holiday draw to a close.

Airports were said to be preparing for their busiest weekend since the start of the pandemic, but carriers continued to struggle with the increased demand.

One person at Bristol airport tweeted: "Shambles in baggage claim, long queues. Welcome home!"

Meanwhile another user at Gatwick said: "1.5hr delay getting to #Gatwick this morning from #Milan. Delays in getting off the plane once at #Gatwick. Now further delays in getting our baggage. Absolute joke!"

It comes after Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said that people should stick to "hand luggage only" to help speed up the process.

"My tip would be to travel midweek, because you'll almost certainly have no difficulties and travel with hand luggage only," he told the Times.

"This reduces the time you spend in airports. Buy socks and jocks and stuff when you get there."

Read more: Armed airport police deploy as angry passengers go behind baggage carousel to get luggage

Read more: Transport Secretary Grant Shapps warns airlines over 'heartbreaking' airport chaos

Aviation worker sums up chaos across British airports

At least 20 easyJet flights have also been cancelled following days of delays and cancellations from airlines.

The budget airline confirmed "a small portion" of flights were cancelled on Saturday, largely pointing to issues at London's Gatwick airport and Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

A total of 20 flights were listed as cancelled at Gatwick on Saturday, while 17 were marked as delayed.

A further 16 flights urged passengers to contact easyJet, suggesting they were also cancelled.

British Airways, Wizz Air and Vueling were among other airlines with cancelled or delayed flights from Gatwick as well, but the numbers were significantly lower.

Travellers have been left waiting hours for their luggage
Travellers have been left waiting hours for their luggage. Picture: Twitter/Chris Evans

A spokeswoman for easyJet said that the current "challenging environment" in the aviation industry had led to increased disruption over the busy bank holiday.

"EasyJet will operate around 1,700 flights carrying around a quarter of a million customers each day over the bank holiday weekend, with a small proportion cancelled in advance either last week or overnight and (passengers were) informed of their options to rebook or receive a refund," she said.

"Airlines continue to operate in a challenging environment including with air traffic control restrictions operating today at London Gatwick and issues with ground operations at several airports including at Amsterdam where the airport has requested airlines to cancel some flying today.

"As a result a small proportion of additional flights could be subject to disruption today.

"We fully understand the inconvenience this will have caused to our customers and we are very sorry for this."

A Gatwick Airport spokesman said air traffic control restrictions are largely down to weather and staffing issues across Europe, and the airport is not the only one facing issues.

He said: "Poor weather and air traffic control issues across Europe are restricting the number of flights that can use European airspace and is causing significant delays and some cancellations at Gatwick."

Passengers planning to use the bank holiday for an overseas break have been blighted by travel chaos this week, with airlines cancelling more than 150 UK flights earlier on Wednesday too.

The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the Covid pandemic.

In response to the growing crisis, the Government met with senior leaders from the aviation industry including airports, airlines and ground handling companies.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the group of chiefs that 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.