Flight chaos leaves thousands stranded as easyJet, BA, Tui and Wizz Air customers disrupted
Thousands of holidaymakers are stuck overseas after the cancellation of flights to the UK
Passengers booked with easyJet, British Airways, Tui Airways and Wizz Air are among those who have seen their plans to return from half-term or bank holiday breaks disrupted.
The aviation industry is struggling to cope with the rise in demand for travel amid a severe staffing shortage.
Matt Wheeler, 37, a train driver from Nottingham, said he and his partner had to make emergency childcare arrangements after finding out their easyJet flight home from Amsterdam had been cancelled on Monday morning.
Mr Wheeler said: “It’s a farce… didn’t know about the cancellation until we arrived at the airport at 3.30am, no easyJet staff or any staff that could help us.
“We now have to try and arrange family members to pick our kids up from school/childminders this afternoon and then have them overnight and take them to school tomorrow.
“They’ll have to take time off work (and) we will now miss a day’s work tomorrow as we won’t be home.”
Mr Wheeler said they have been put in a hotel and booked onto a Tuesday morning flight, but added: “It’s the lack of communication and no one at the airport to speak to that’s annoying – and the fact this could happen again tomorrow.”
After cancelling dozens of flights over the weekend, easyJet scrapped a further 26 due to arrive at or depart from Gatwick on Monday.
These included from destinations such as Bilbao, Madrid and Seville in Spain, Milan and Palermo in Italy, Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland, and Malta.
British Airways axed more than 100 short-haul flights at Heathrow on Monday, although the airline stressed that passengers affected were given advance notice.
Tui Airways is cancelling six daily flights at Manchester.
Some 225 departures from UK airports were cancelled between Monday and Friday last week, according to aviation data firm Cirium.
That compares with 24 during the corresponding half-term week last year.
Travel consultancy The PC Agency estimated that at least 15,000 passengers were affected by “last-minute changes” to flights on Sunday.
Chief executive Paul Charles said this caused “major knock-on effects” and “it will take three days to clear the backlog”.
He said: “We’re now seeing the impact of the weekend’s cancellations with knock-on effects for tens of thousands of travellers.
“So many flights were never rescheduled after the pandemic, so there often isn’t the frequency of flights to get passengers back quickly if they are affected.
“We’re going to see a large number of compensation claims from those stuck abroad.
“Sadly it can take three days to get flights back to normal and get people back.”
UK airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months due to a lack of staff after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.
Airlines, airports and ground handling companies repeatedly called for sector-specific financial support during the Covid-19 crisis as Government travel restrictions suppressed demand.
They are now struggling to recruit new staff and have their security checks processed.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has rejected calls to open the door to more “cheap” overseas workers in a bid to relieve the pressure on the aviation sector.
Asked whether he would temporarily allow more foreign workers into the industry to alleviate staffing pressures, told the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme: “The answer can’t always be to reach for the lever marked ‘More immigration’.
“There is not some pull that is going to relieve this.”