Holidaymakers trying to get away this half-term are stuck navigating the busiest day at Britain’s airports since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Flight cancellations, ferry queues, and traffic jams have been causing chaos as an estimated 17.9m ‘leisure trips’ will be made by road between 27 and 29 May. Insurance company RAC even issued a warning regarding the predicted congestion on motorways and A roads, with a spokesperson stating; ‘Major routes to holiday destinations will start to clog up […] Drivers can beat the worst of the queues by planning the time of their trips carefully.
‘An early start is always best or, failing that, driving at dusk if that’s a feasible option.’
‘A very busy week ahead’
Simultaneously, those hoping to travel to Europe via the English Channel are facing long queues in Dover, an issue somewhat exacerbated by the thousands of Liverpool FC fans travelling to Paris for Saturday’s Champions League final.
The Port of Dover has recommended that holidaymakers bring supplies of water and food, predicting a ‘very busy week ahead.’
Similarly, Irish Ferries has warned customers of delays reaching three hours long at port security, and P&O Ferries, too, has warned of heavy traffic approaching border control. Whilst passengers who may miss sailings are usually able to travel on the next service, the disruption is undoubtedly frustrating.
‘One of the busiest days we have seen for a long time’
At the airports, nearly 8,000 flights were set to leave the UK last weekend, with Friday 27 May seeing the highest number of departures since March 2020 according to analysts at Cirium.
EasyJet has already had to cancel 14 flights from London Gatwick in the early hours of Friday, after IT problems on the Thursday prevented 200 flights around Europe from taking off. However, Gatwick has asserted that queues have long since cleared, as they prepare for around 100,000 passengers a day over the weekend.
‘There have also been no significant queues for Gatwick security today – one of the busiest days we have seen for some time.’
Furthermore, an easyJet spokesperson has reassured that their IT problems have been fully rectified, telling the Guardian; ‘Customers have been notified and provided with options to rebook or receive a refund. We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused.’
Unions, too, have warned of trouble on the horizon – Unite, a union that represents the interests of tens of thousands of airline workers, has laid the blame at the door of airline companies and airports for laying off employees through the pandemic. Unite general secretary Sharon Graham told the Guardian: ‘We warned this corporate greed would cause chaos in the industry. The aftermath of mass sackings is now chronic staff shortages across the board.
‘Current pay and conditions in the industry are so poor that workers are voting with their feet.’