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

31 May 2022, 00:56 | Updated: 31 May 2022, 09:33

Travel chaos is expected to get worse in coming days
Travel chaos is expected to get worse in coming days. Picture: Twitter/Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Ministers have condemned airlines for their "completely unacceptable" cuts during the pandemic, which are now causing chaos for Brits hoping to enjoy getaways during half-term.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Holidaymakers were left in tears on Monday as chaos continued to take over airports across the country.

Many queued for hours before finding out that their flights had been delayed or even cancelled at the last minute.

A Government source blamed the aviation sector for not being prepared for the sudden surge, despite financial support being made available during the pandemic to help prevent such cases.

"The sudden cancellations of flights and airport delays are completely unacceptable," the source told the Times.

"The simple fact is that airlines and airports overcut staff during the pandemic, ignoring the fact that the billions of pounds of aid - including furlough - handed out by the Government was meant to protect those very jobs.

"Operators are now struggling to meet increasingly busy schedules as we move towards the first Covid-free summer since 2019 - a wholly foreseeable surge in bookings that should have been adequately prepared for.

"The responsibility for maintaining adequate staffing levels lies with the airlines and airports themselves.

"Not only are they causing huge frustration to their customers, they are missing out on the benefits of the strong recovery in foreign travel."

Read more: Anarchy at the airports: Families stranded for 5 hours and one plane 'runs out of fuel'

Read more: Brits face holiday chaos as 'just 50% of passports will be renewed in time for summer'

Chaotic scenes at airports across the UK were slammed as a "shambles" by half-term holidaymakers after facing queues that snaked back into car parks.

Popular holiday company TUI told "hundreds" of customers over text that their highly anticipated holidays had been axed whilst unlucky passengers at Bristol airport reportedly faced five-hour delays.

Airlines blamed supply chain issues while easyJet apologised for previously cancelling a raft of Gatwick flights.

They appear to be buckling as 300,000 people get set to fly over half-term and the Platinum Jubilee weekend, the busiest week for air travel since 2019.

One flight from Santorini to Gatwick had to divert to Luton after crew said they didn’t have enough fuel to carry out the planned journey. The easyJet flight had been given a later-than-expected slot to land.

But after arriving in Luton they were told there were not enough baggage handlers to bring out their luggage on time, and should instead head to Gatwick under their own steam.

Experts warned that the crisis would only worsen over the upcoming four-day bank holiday weekend, in what has become the biggest test for the sector amid its recovery from the pandemic.

Consumer group Which? called for an intervention from the Government to stop airlines from "selling flights that they can't actually provide".

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

"Yes, we're seeing a particular peak this week because of half term and the jubilee weekend, but as soon as the schools break up for the summer, the volume is going to be as and if not greater than it is at the moment.

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