UK airport chaos: Aviation expert suggests Britons should consider cancelling holidays

British tourists who have only paid a deposit for their holiday should consider cancelling now to avoid facing a massive bill to get home if their flights are cancelled amid the airport chaos, an aviation expert claimed today.

UK holidaymakers heading abroad endured further long queues again today as others were warned strike action across Europe threatens to wreak more havoc on summer getaways amid fears the situation could get worse.

And aviation expert Julian Bray told MailOnline this afternoon that those who have only paid a deposit of about 10 per cent should consider cancelling now ‘because you have no guarantee of an outward flight or a return flight’.

He gave an example of a family of four who become stuck in the Canary Islands with no available seats on flights for days and could therefore face a £4,000 bill to get home to the UK via ferry, rail and possibly more flights.

Mr Bray said: ‘If you just paid a deposit and its usually about 10 per cent, it’s worth considering cancelling your holiday at the moment because you have no guarantee of an outward flight or a return flight – or if your return flight is delayed or cancelled and you need to be put up in a hotel. If you’re on the Canary Islands, it’s a problem. 

‘If you’re a family of four as a capital sum that could be £3,000 to £4,000. If you then have to pay for return transit, which would be a ferry to the mainland, possible train, possible new flights – then all the baggage to contend with.

‘I don’t say everybody should do it, but they should consider. If you’ve got a spare £2,000 or £3,000 that you can take as emergency money so you’ve got the wherewithal to get back, you might take a different view on it.’

He said airlines were struggling to move people from cancelled flights onto other planes because booking levels were so high – and that previous policies of overbooking by 10 per cent because there were normally 20 per cent no-shows were now redundant post-Covid, because ‘everybody wants to get away and nobody is cancelling’.

Mr Bray also warned that there were 60,000 job vacancies to be filled in the industry, and a backlog of three to six months of potential workers going through the vetting procedure which they require before starting training.

He advised people consider cancelling ‘up to Christmas because the delay in getting clearance for people is three to six months which means that the training starts after that, which means you’re still not going to be up to speed’.

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers and commuters flying from Bristol once again encounter lengthy queues pre-4am today

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Huge queues at Bristol Airport this morning again as people arrive before 4am for their flights

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Huge queues at Bristol Airport this morning again as people arrive before 4am for their flights

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Air passengers flying from Bristol Airport this morning once again encounter lengthy queues pre-4am

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Air passengers flying from Bristol Airport this morning once again encounter lengthy queues pre-4am

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: Foreign Secretary David Lammy tweeted a picture of huge queues at Heathrow this morning

LONDON HEATHROW AIRPORT: Foreign Secretary David Lammy tweeted a picture of huge queues at Heathrow this morning

Earlier this week, Downing Street said ministers and officials had been meeting with aviation industry leaders and Border Force to increase ‘resilience for the sector throughout the summer’ to avert further travel chaos.

But the Prime Minister’s official spokesman said it was ultimately down to the aviation industry to address staff shortages.

We fully understand that the aviation industry – like many others – has faced significant challenges during the pandemic,’ the government’s spokesman said. ‘But ultimately they are responsible for making sure they have enough staff to meet demand and we have been clear they must step up recruitment to make sure disruption is kept to a minimum.’

Meanwhile Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has refused to help short-staffed airlines by relaxing visa rules to ease the travel chaos, and also ruled out sending in the Army to ease queues at Britain’s struggling airports.

Teachers are among those set to miss the return to work after airlines cancelled hundreds of flights.

BRISTOL AIRPORT: A passengers sleeps on a bench at Bristol Airport this morning as the airline disruption continues

BRISTOL AIRPORT: A passengers sleeps on a bench at Bristol Airport this morning as the airline disruption continues

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Queues this morning at TUI bag drop and to check in to flights

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Queues this morning at TUI bag drop and to check in to flights 

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers and commuters flying from Bristol once again endure lengthy queues this morning

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers and commuters flying from Bristol once again endure lengthy queues this morning

Couple whose easyJet flight from Berlin to Luton was cancelled drove through the night after borrowing relative’s car 

A couple whose easyJet flight from Berlin to London Luton last night was cancelled decided to borrow a relative’s German car and drive 850 miles through the night to get to work by lunchtime today.

Clare, 49, and Christian Engelke, 56, were told in a text message yesterday lunchtime that their 10.55pm flight had been cancelled, and there were no alternative flights available until Wednesday.

Clare and Christian Engelke, pictured on holiday in Berlin

Clare and Christian Engelke, pictured on holiday in Berlin

The couple, who are from the Staffordshire village of Codsall, spent the next few hours unsuccessful trying to find alternative flights or train journeys.

They gave up at 4pm and their friends said they could drive them three hours from Berlin to Saltzgitter, where they picked up another car from relatives.

The Engelkes then drove through the night across the continent to the Eurotunnel in Calais so they could get back home for work today.

They said they had to spend £180 on fuel and £178 on the Eurotunnel, and also then had to pick up their car at Luton today after paying £10 to extend the parking.

In addition, the couple now have a German car in England that they will have to take back.

Mrs Engelke told MailOnline today: ‘The staggering thing we learnt was how few flights are available between the capital city of Germany and the UK.

‘We are lucky we have mobile phones and used our initiative to call on lovely friends who we met in Berlin – seeing them for the first time in three years due to the pandemic – and family in Germany who have lent us a car to get us home. We now have a German car in England that we have to take back eventually.’

She added at 9am that they were ‘making good progress now on the M1 so hope to be sitting at our desks by lunchtime’.

Those stranded abroad were having to come up with ingenious ways to get home – with one couple driving 850 miles from Berlin to Staffordshire after their easyJet flight to Luton was cancelled, and two teachers travelling for 12 hours on three buses to Split in Croatia after their easyJet plane from Montenegro to Gatwick was axed.

Live data from FlightRadar24 on Tuesday showed there had been 24 cancellations at Gatwick including ten departures and 14 arrivals; a further 14 at Luton including eight departures and six arrivals; and a total of four at Heathrow. When split by airline, there had been 20 easyJet cancellations, 12 Wizz Air and five on British Airways.

Thousands of families returning from half-term getaways and bank holiday breaks have been left stranded abroad while others were hit by further delays, with more flights cancelled earlier this week by airlines such as easyJet and Wizz Air.

Planes heading for Luton were diverted hundreds of miles away because of a power cut yesterday, and there was also trouble on the trains – with Eurostar passengers left waiting up to eight hours for their trains because of power failure on the line near Paris; while London’s Euston station had to be evacuated after a fire alarm went off.

Meanwhile, some passengers have been left stranded and supplied with helpline numbers they say do not work when Wizz Air cancelled a flight to Sicily from Gatwick Airport this morning.

Rosie, 28, who wanted to be known by just her first name, had travelled to Gatwick from Bognor Regis with her husband and two young children, who are two and 18 months old, and were booked on a Wizz Air flight to Catania, where her husband’s family live.

She said: ‘His family haven’t met our two children yet – because of Covid we haven’t been able to get out there, and I’ve been pregnant so haven’t been able to go. We wanted them to go and meet his family.

‘The whole time we were told our flight was running on time, we then got told our flight was delayed by an hour. We then came to the gate, we all got ushered into the gate group to be told the flight was cancelled and that we need to come here and we’d be supplied with a hotel room and a substitute flight.

‘There has been no communication, we’re only getting told now by Wizz Air that our flight’s been cancelled, and it was already meant to be up in the air.’

The couple have tried on previous occasions to travel to Sicily with other airlines, including easyJet, and had those flights cancelled too.

She added: ‘There’s zero communication, we’ve got small children and there’s people here who don’t speak English, there’s no help.’

Security rushed over to the group of stranded passengers who had gathered near the Wizz Air check-in area after one man became agitated and started yelling at staff in Italian, asking for someone to help.

Emma and Kevin Wood, both 51 from Hampshire, had also planned to fly to Sicily with the airline on Monday morning.

Mr Wood said that there had been ‘no help at all’ from the airline, with Mrs Wood adding: ‘They just said basically said try and rebook it online or on their website.’

Mr Wood said: ‘They’ve been saying there’s been issues (with flights) but we were hoping since the holiday weekend was finished that things perhaps have calmed down a bit, but clearly not.’

The couple were given a number to call for further support, which they said ‘didn’t seem to work’.

EasyJet pilots predict summer of ‘chaos’: Air crews claim airline is in ‘operational meltdown’ and accuse ‘foolish’ bosses of cancelling viable flights over half-term and Jubilee after laying off hundreds of staff in pandemic… and it will only get WORSE

By Mark Duell, James Tozer and Luke Barr for the Daily Mail

EasyJet pilots have accused the ‘chaotic’ airline of cancelling viable flights over the half-term holidays after ‘foolish’ bosses thought they could operate despite making hundreds of staff redundant during the pandemic.

Pilots from France working for the Luton-based company warned of the ‘frightening prospect’ of even worse disruption this summer as fears build that customers will stop using the airline after being put off by the chaos.

Workers from the French SNPL pilot union also accused easyJet officials of failing to act on warnings that the firm could not cope with demand after Covid-19 restrictions were lifted amid ‘operational meltdowns’. They also said there ‘seems to be a curse on easyJet top management, bound to become penny wise and pound foolish’.

The letter, written to easyJet’s Swedish chief executive Johan Lundgren, accused executives of being ‘fooled’ into believing they could put on a summer schedule despite ‘less flight crew, cabin crew or flight planning officers’.

EasyJet cut 1,400 UK jobs in the first ten months of the pandemic up to January 2021, having initially warned shortly after the Covid-19 crisis began that up to 4,500 members of its 15,000 workforce could lose their jobs. 

The situation at EasyJet – whose pre-tax losses over the six months to March were revealed last month to have hit £557million – comes as British holidaymakers heading abroad were hit by further long queues at UK airports again today as others were warned strike action across Europe threatens to wreak further havoc on summer getaways.

Unions representing Ryanair crew in Spain said they had ‘no option’ but to call for a walk-out after the carrier abandoned pay talks. The move raises the prospect of more misery for travellers, many of whom are still stuck at holiday destinations after their flights home were cancelled following half-term flight chaos. 

According to the i newspaper, the French pilots said in their letter: ‘Literally hundreds of employees in distress have fed back how chaotic our operations have become recently, to unprecedented levels… We are actually convinced that our disruption hasn’t even peaked yet and frankly this is a frightening prospect.’

They claimed there were dozens of ‘red cancellations’ just minutes before departure, and some early flights were cancelled at the last-minute despite easyJet bosses knowing the night before that no crew were available.

EasyJet, which about 550 French-based pilots, said it would respond directly to the SNPL – and a spokesman told the i: ‘Delivering a safe and reliable operation for our customers and crew is the airline’s highest priority. EasyJet continues to operate up to around 1,700 flights and carry around a quarter of a million customers every day.

‘However, the ongoing challenging operating environment continues to have an impact which is resulting in a small proportion of flight cancellations. We are absolutely focused on our daily operation and continue to monitor this very closely and will not hesitate to take action as needed.’

Flight cancellations today at airports in England 

TOTAL – 67

GATWICK (28)

Departures (14)

  • EasyJet (12) – Venice, Amsterdam, Turin, Milan, Zurich, Geneva, Berlin, Preveza, Valencia, Pisa, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona
  • WestJet (1) – Toronto
  • Wizz Air (1) – Milan

Arrivals (14)

  • EasyJet (12) – Venice, Amsterdam, Turin, Milan, Zurich, Geneva, Berlin, Preveza, Valencia, Pisa, Palma de Mallorca, Barcelona [same flights]
  • WestJet (1) – Toronto
  • Wizz Air (1) – Malaga

HEATHROW (10)

Departures (4)

  • Lufthansa (1) – Frankfurt
  • KLM (1) – Amsterdam
  • United Airlines (1) – Washington
  • Malaysia Airlines (1) – Kuala Lumpur

Arrivals (6)

  • Lufthansa (1) – Frankfurt
  • KLM (1) – Amsterdam
  • United Airlines (1) – Washington
  • Malaysia Airlines (1)- Kuala Lumpur
  • Air China (2) – Beijing, Shanghai

LUTON (5)

Departures (3)

  • Wizz Air (1) – Sofia
  • EasyJet (2) – Jersey, Malaga

Arrivals (2)

  • Wizz Air (1) – Sofia
  • EasyJet (1) – Jersey

STANSTED (2)

Departures (1)

Arrivals (1)

BIRMINGHAM (6)

Arrivals (3)

  • EasyJet (3) – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Malaga

Departures (3)

  • EasyJet (3) – Edinburgh, Glasgow, Malaga

BRISTOL (12)

Arrivals (6)

  • EasyJet (6) – Krakow, Glasgow, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Basel, Belfast

Departures (6)

  • EasyJet (6) – Krakow, Glasgow, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Basel, Belfast

MANCHESTER (4)

Arrivals (2)

  • KLM (1) – Amsterdam
  • SAS (1) – Oslo

Departures (2)

  • KLM (1) – Amsterdam
  • SAS (1) – Oslo

There were also huge queues at London Heathrow Airport this morning, where Shadow Foreign Secretary David Lammy tweeted this morning: ‘Arriving from work in Afghanistan this morning at 7am. 

‘(Home Secretary) Priti Patel has achieved the longest passport control queue I have ever seen at Heathrow. A warm welcome home to fellow citizens and visitors alike. Another feather in her cap. Well done.’ 

Today, some 67 flights were cancelled across airports in England including 47 by easyJet – with Gatwick worst hit.

At Gatwick, the airline axed 28 flights with an equal split of departures and arrivals to the 14 destinations of Venice, Amsterdam, Turin, Milan, Zurich, Geneva, Berlin, Preveza, Valencia, Pisa, Palma de Mallorca and Barcelona.

There were 12 easyJet flights cancelled at Bristol Airport today, including six arrivals and six departures to and from Krakow, Glasgow, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam, Basel and Belfast.

At Luton, easyJet cancelled three flights including routes to Jersey and Malaga. At Stansted, a flight to and from Edinburgh was axed, while there were cancellations at Birmingham to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow and Malta.

It comes after an estimated 10,000 passengers were grounded yesterday as easyJet pulled another 60 flights.

The boss of Heathrow has already warned of up to 18 months of disruption as the aviation industry struggles to recruit and train staff to replace those let go during the pandemic. 

Yesterday consumer groups responded by calling for tougher action against airlines that fail to switch passengers to another carrier.

Rory Boland of Which? Travel said it was totally unacceptable that easyJet customers had seen their holiday plans thrown into chaos at the last minute.

He added: ‘The cavalier approach some airlines are currently taking toward their customers is a reminder of why passenger rights must be strengthened.’

Mr Boland said the Civil Aviation Authority should be given direct fining powers to hold airlines to account when they flout the law.

One father told yesterday how his child had to urinate in a plastic bag as his family endured a two-hour security queue at Manchester Airport ahead of a flight to Berlin.

In Italy, crews from Ryanair and easyJet walked off the job on Wednesday, while workers at France’s Charles de Gaulle airport went on strike yesterday for more pay, with a quarter of flights cancelled.

In Spain two unions representing Ryanair cabin crew yesterday threatened to cause disruption this summer after Europe’s biggest budget airline walked away from pay talks.

They have previously warned of co-ordinated action with colleagues in Italy, France, Portugal and Belgium.

BA travellers face more disruption because the GMB union is balloting Heathrow check-in staff and ground handlers over pay.

Ryanair last night insisted it had reached agreement with 90 per cent of its workers, including with Spain’s biggest union.

It branded the threats from smaller unions ‘a distraction from their own failures to deliver agreements’ adding that ‘we do not expect widespread disruption this summer’. EasyJet apologised to stranded passengers, blaming the strikes in Italy and France.

The Daily Mail reported yesterday that air fares could rise by nearly 10 per cent this summer, partly through higher fuel costs.

Also earlier this week, a leading airline boss sparked a safety row after urging pilots to keep working even if they are ‘fatigued’.

Jozsef Varadi, the chief executive of Wizz Air, has come under fire after calling on staff to lower the company’s ‘fatigue rate’.

In an internal video seen by the Daily Mail, the budget airline boss said: ‘We are all fatigued but sometimes it is required to take the extra mile. We cannot run this business when every fifth person of a base reports sickness because the person is fatigued.

‘The damage is huge when we are cancelling the flight. It is the reputational damage of the brand. And it is other financial damage because we have to pay compensation for that.’

Tourists sit at a cafe terrace at Levante Beach in Benidorm on Tuesday as they go on a summer holiday

Tourists sit at a cafe terrace at Levante Beach in Benidorm on Tuesday as they go on a summer holiday

Tourists enjoy the swimming pool of a hotel at Levante Beach in Benidorm on Tuesday as they enjoy a holiday

Tourists enjoy the swimming pool of a hotel at Levante Beach in Benidorm on Tuesday as they enjoy a holiday

A woman carries an inflatable dummy as she walks along the promenade at Levante Beach in Benidorm on Tuesday

A woman carries an inflatable dummy as she walks along the promenade at Levante Beach in Benidorm on Tuesday

Wizz Air has been forced to axe dozens of flights in recent weeks amid staff shortages and wider travel disruption across the UK.

But Martin Chalk, general secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association, condemned Mr Varadi’s comments, saying: ‘I am shocked that an airline CEO would advise actions so contrary to even a basic safety culture.

‘I would urge Mr Varadi to swiftly clarify that Wizz Air would fully support any pilot who does the right thing for the safety of their passengers, crew and aircraft by not flying if they are fatigued.’

The controversy comes after the Hungarian-based carrier announced it had racked up losses of £550million for the 12 months to the end of March – although revenue more than doubled to £1.4billion.

More than 27million passengers flew with Wizz Air last year – up from 17million the year before.

In an optimistic address, Mr Varadi said he expects the airline to deliver its ‘largest ever summer flying programme and the fastest growth in the industry’.

However Wizz Air is expecting to post further losses between April and June due to higher fuel costs and ongoing airport chaos.

Other major airlines, such as British Airways and easyJet, have also faced disruption since Covid travel curbs were loosened in March.

Earlier this week, Sajid Javid blasted the industry, saying it was ‘about time [it] took more responsibility for sorting its own challenges out.’

The Health Secretary added: ‘We haven’t seen similar problems in France, Germany or Italy. 

‘They also have very low unemployment rates like we do so they face labour market challenges like we do. The industry should have done better. The industry got caught out.’

A Wizz Air spokesman said: ‘Supply chain issues are affecting all airlines, in particular staff availability and welfare. In this context, going the extra mile for all our customers to minimise disruption was a main topic of this briefing.’

They added that safety is the airline’s ‘first priority’ and said they have ‘a robust and responsible crew management system’.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10904579/UK-airport-chaos-Aviation-expert-suggests-Britons-consider-cancelling-holidays.html