More flights cancelled on Monday with holidaymakers facing huge queues

3 April 2022, 09:04 | Updated: 4 April 2022, 05:19

The cancellations by EasyJet mean the travel disruption is unlikely to abate for some
The cancellations by EasyJet mean the travel disruption is unlikely to abate for some. Picture: Social media/Alamy

By Asher McShane

EasyJet has cancelled another 60 flights for Monday, adding to major travel disruption seen at UK airports over the weekend as holidaymakers tried to leave the country.

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More than 200 flights in total have been axed, including 62 that had been scheduled for Monday alone, the majority of which were cancelled at short notice on Saturday.

An EasyJet spokesperson blamed high levels of employee sickness for the cancellations, which they said was a result of "high rates of Covid infections across Europe".

It comes after the weekend saw severe travel delays, with three-hour check-in queues reported at Manchester Airport.

Images from the airport on Saturday night show huge queues and mountains of baggage waiting to be sorted. The scenes at Manchester airport were labelled "a disgrace" as footage emerged of chaotic scenes at security.

Heathrow Airport, which saw similar disruption, blamed disruption on Covid checks required by destination countries and "high passenger volumes".

But there were also reports of staff shortages and problems with the e-gate passport checkpoints, as travellers took to social media to air their frustrations.

Some said they had waited hours to check in and take off as the airport confirmed "congestion" was affecting Terminal 2.

Other travellers said several automatic e-gates - which are staffed by Border Force - used to process passengers, were not operating properly.

One person posted about Heathrow airport, writing online: "Airport only allowing passengers in exactly 3 hours before they fly internationally due to be near capacity. Early arrivals are being sent to arrivals to wait."

Another said: "Chaos at T2 yesterday - queued for 2 hours just to get to Bag Drop. No information or apology from ground staff. What was the reason for this?"

Replying to one passenger who wanted guidance on how far ahead to arrive before his flight, Heathrow said: "Queue times have been longer as passenger numbers rise. We do not have information of how long it takes to pass security."

A Heathrow spokesperson said: "Due to high passenger volumes and the Covid documentation checks still required by many end destinations, Terminal 2 departures has experienced some congestion today.

"Our teams are supporting our airline partners to get passengers away on their journeys as quickly as possible and we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused."

One person who travelled through Manchester airport said: "Manchester airport on Friday was utter unorganised chaos. Had to push through the security scrum and run through the maze of shops to get to my terminal on time."

One person said they planned to arrive at Manchester airport at midday in order to make a 6pm flight.

The airport was described as a "shambles," with one person writing "it has always been the worst, most stressful, least organised airport I have ever used for over a decade, but yesterday was horrendous even for Manchester airport standards."

The travel disruption was not just limited to airports.

There were similar chaotic scenes and extremely long queues at Dover for people waiting to board ferries for hours. One person told LBC it took them four and half hours of queueing at Dover before they could even check in for their departure.

"It was a long, long wait," the caller said.

"It's like a traffic lockdown."

He said it took him about 19 hours to reach Cologne in Germany, compared to the usual time of 10 or 11 hours.

The situation at the Port of Dover has improved slightly but delays are likely to continue beyond the weekend, the boss of the British Ports Association has said.

The area has been plunged into traffic chaos, with gridlocked roads near the port caused by disruption to cross-Channel ferries and bad weather.

Speaking this morning, Richard Ballantyne said: "It is a bit better today, we understand.

"Yesterday we were up to nine-hour queues outside the port. Traffic measures are in place, which... are working fairly well and it enables other people around east Kent and businesses, residents etc to move around freely.

"But (it is) not a good position if you're stuck in a vehicle for six to eight hours."

The suspension of P&O services, with three of the company's vessels at berth in Dover, has been partly blamed for long queues in the area.

Adverse weather in the Channel and congestion caused by tourists travelling to Kent for an Easter getaway are also said to be contributing to the jams.

Drivers have been forced to wait for hours to board ferries after measures were triggered to control the movement of HGVs in the area.

Under Operation Brock, lorries heading to Dover are allowed to use one side of the M20 while all other traffic is restricted to a contraflow system on the opposite side.

The cross-Channel situation was dealt a further blow when a DFDS ferry, Dover Seaways, hit a berth in high winds on Thursday.

DFDS said in a statement the vessel is being inspected ahead of repairs and it is expected to return to service on Monday or Tuesday.

Despite the slight improvement, Mr Ballantyne said authorities are predicting delays will extend into the working week.

He said: "East Kent and the Kent police services... and the very well established operations team at the Port of Dover are predicting this is going to continue for another couple of days, but it is something we just quite don't know how long it's going to go on for."

Nick Gale, a teacher from Kent travelling with his family to Calais for a trip to Amsterdam, said they had been stuck for "over two hours" on Saturday and missed the ferry they were booked on.

Mr Gale criticised the "awful" communication around Dover, saying non-freight travellers were left in the dark about what to do.

"I think around Dover it's awful, there is no communication for what non-freight customers (are) to do. We're local to the area so knew a couple of ways to beat the huge queues but it's literally not moving," he said.

"We've got no food and an eight-year-old in the back moaning."