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Passengers threaten mutiny after being trapped on planes at Heathrow as Easter travel chaos begins

Furious passengers threatened ‘mutiny’ at Heathrow Airport tonight while being made to wait on the tarmac for hours after landing – on the eve of what is expected to be a weekend of Easter travel hell. 

Fed-up travellers were already reporting problems from Britain’s critically understaffed travel hubs on Thursday evening, with some waiting more than two hours for their baggage at Manchester Airport, while another at Gatwick reported sitting at the departure gate for several hours with ‘no updates’.

Others had their return flights cancelled mid-air while families reported being stranded in Spain and France due to last-minute cancellations of their return trips.  

It comes as motorists have also been warned they face a weekend of misery, with clogged up motorways, busy A-roads and a hefty fuel bill on what could be one of the busiest bank holiday travel days on record.

Rail passengers, too, are being warned of Easter delays as Network Rail carries out 530 engineering projects costing a total of £83million. 

Are you stuck in the travel chaos?

Let me know about your experience: [email protected] 

‘Get us off the plane before you have mutiny,’ declared one BA traveller on Twitter late on Thursday night, who reported waiting more than an hour for a bridge to unload passengers at Heathrow.

Another said: ‘We landed almost two hours ago and are still on the plane awaiting one of your crew to connect an air bridge… you should be ashamed of your shambles of an operation tonight.’ 

In a video shared online from Heathrow’s Terminal 5 baggage reclaim, an exasperated YouTuber with the username FredStreams said: ‘If you are travelling anytime soon, cancel it, I wouldn’t do it.’  

He added: ‘We’re at Terminal 5… state-of-the-art airport… they don’t know where the bags are, they don’t know when the bags are coming.’

He said he and his girlfriend were asked to fill out forms for their baggage and told to ‘go home’, where their luggage would be sent to them.  

Another fuming passenger who had arrived from Milan said they were stuck on their plane for more than an hour waiting for a bus to ferry them to the terminal.

‘Apparently you only have one bus driver in the whole of Terminal 5,’ they fumed. 

While some managed to make their flights, one couple had their return trip with British Airway cancelled mid-air. 

‘They have just cancelled our flight home as we’re mid-air going out!’ one of the couple said, ‘Shambles!’   

Meanwhile, a Twitter user named Bobby Tang accused staff of Heathrow of going through his baggage and stealing his luxury Easter egg chocolates. 

He tweeted a picture which appeared to show opened and empty wrappers, writing: ‘Wtf is this you did to my bag? Stealing Easter chocolates from Fortnum’s now?’   

It comes following weeks of queueing chaos at airports up and down the UK as bosses and airlines blamed the Easter rush, long-term staffing issues and a wave of Covid enforced sickness for the delays. 

A picture taken from Heathrow on Thursday night showed crowded scenes as scores of travellers looked to get away for their Easter break on the eve of the Bank Holiday weekend 

Fed-up travellers are already reporting problems from Britain's critically understaffed travel hubs tonight, with some waiting more than two hours for their baggage at Manchester Airport, while another at Gatwick reported sitting at the departure gate for several hours with 'no updates'. (Pictured: Passengers queue to enter airport security at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Thursday)

Fed-up travellers are already reporting problems from Britain’s critically understaffed travel hubs tonight, with some waiting more than two hours for their baggage at Manchester Airport, while another at Gatwick reported sitting at the departure gate for several hours with ‘no updates’. (Pictured: Passengers queue to enter airport security at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Thursday)

Millions of passengers will be passing through UK airports this weekend as industry experts warn of 'catastrophic understaffing'. (Pictured: Queues at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Thursday)

Millions of passengers will be passing through UK airports this weekend as industry experts warn of ‘catastrophic understaffing’. (Pictured: Queues at Heathrow Terminal 5 on Thursday)

This year's Easter weekend is expected to be a bumper edition as it is the first without any UK Covid travel restrictions since the start of the pandemic.

This year’s Easter weekend is expected to be a bumper edition as it is the first without any UK Covid travel restrictions since the start of the pandemic.

One traveller accused Heathrow staff of eating his Fortnum Easter chocolate on Thursday evening

One traveller accused Heathrow staff of eating his Fortnum Easter chocolate on Thursday evening 

The four-day Easter weekend, kicking off Friday, is typically one of the busiest for travel.

But this year’s is expected to be a bumper edition as it is the first without any UK Covid travel restrictions since the start of the pandemic. 

Millions of passengers will be passing through UK airports as industry experts warn of ‘catastrophic understaffing’.

But the chaotic scenes seem to have already begun tonight, leading passengers to demand compensation. 

One passenger arriving from Algiers wrote: ‘A disaster at Heathrow Terminal 3, waiting for two hours and a half and my luggage still not here… we need compensation.’ 

Another at Manchester said: ‘Sat in T2 waiting for @swissportnews to offload our bags… Been waiting an hour so far, apparently bags still on the plane! Onward transport now missed… this is frustrating.’ 

One in Gatwick claimed: ‘Huge queue of families with small children to go through passport control… barely any @UKBorder staff and moving very slowly.’  

Fuming passengers report hours-long delays for flights and baggage at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester on Thursday evening - while others report being stranded abroad after their return trips were cancelled last minute

Fuming passengers report hours-long delays for flights and baggage at Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester on Thursday evening – while others report being stranded abroad after their return trips were cancelled last minute

Another family accused easyJet of leaving them stranded in eastern Spain. 

They wrote: ‘Absolute disgrace, cancelled our flight from Murcia, kicked us out of the airport, no taxis and two young children with me. It’s nearly 11pm.’

They said they had been booked on another flight for 3pm Friday.  

Another unlucky flyer stuck in Marseilles said: ‘We received the notification when parking at the airport… now in a nearby hotel – cost to be invoiced to BA!’ 

MailOnline has contacted Manchester, Gatwick and Heathrow airports for comment.  

It comes after travel industry leaders warned there will also be chaos on Britain’s road networks this weekend.    

Compounding the misery, supplies of petrol and diesel at filling stations in some areas of the country are running at around half their usual level as the UK’s travel network came under pressure ahead of the Easter getaway, new figures suggest.

Petrol stock levels at garages in eastern England averaged 19 per cent as of April 10, with south-east England recording 21 per cent and London 22 per cent, a drop from the pre-pandemic average of 40 per cent.

It comes as travellers using roads were left waiting for hours in long queues on Thursday.

Delays were seen on motorways, with 27.6 million car journeys expected to take place over the bank holiday weekend.    

Huge numbers of passengers were also seen waiting in long queues at London St Pancras train station for Eurostar rail services to Paris and Brussels, while drivers were pictured stuck in heavy traffic on the M25 in Surrey.

RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘Although we’re expecting the biggest number of Easter getaway trips by car tomorrow – around 4.6m – it’s clear some drivers are keen to make an early escape ahead of the bank holiday.

‘As well as the closure of the coastbound M20 for Operation Brock Zero, earlier collisions are causing problems on the south-eastern M25 and roads connecting with it, as well as on the A303 in Wiltshire.

‘From a breakdown perspective, we’re seeing high demand for our service across northern England, especially around the Lake District, as well as the coastal areas of West Wales.’

National Highways said there were 90-minute delays near the Dartford Tunnel in Kent due to a broken down lorry and a spillage.

There were also 30-minute delays due to the M18 being closed in South Yorkshire. 

As many as 27.6 million car journeys are expected to be made in the UK across the four-day Easter weekend, the first free of Covid restrictions in more than two years. 

On the roads, Good Friday is predicted to be the busiest, with as many as 4.6million car journeys expected, as people head away for the four-day weekend.

Easter Monday, when many head back from their travels, is predicted to be the busiest, with up to 4million leisure journeys expected.

Which roads will be busiest this Easter? And when they be busiest? 

Good Friday

Estimated trips: 4,620,000 

Worst roads for congestion: M6 north J26 Liverpool to J36 South Lakes around middle of the day; M25 clockwise J8 to J16 around late morning; A303 approaching Stonehenge during the morning

Worst time to drive: Between 9.30am and 7pm

Easter Saturday

Estimated trips: 3,630,000

Worst roads for travel congestion: A303 approaching Stonehenge around late morning; M25 clockwise J8 to J16 around middle of the day

Worst time to drive: Between 10am and 2pm.

Easter Sunday 

Estimated trips: 3,630,000

Worst roads for travel congestion: M25 clockwise J8 to J16 around middle of the day; A303 approaching Stonehenge around middle of the day

Worst time to drive: Between 10am and 2pm

Easter Monday

Estimated trips: 3,960,000

Worst roads for travel congestion: M25 clockwise J8 to J16 early afternoon; M6 south J20 for the M56 to J16 Stoke-on-Trent early evening; M3 north J14 for the M27 to J7 Basingstoke early afternoon

Worst time to drive: Between Midday and 2.30pm 

With so many people taking to the roads this weekend, travel experts are warning of possible delays on the roads, including at well-known pinch spots such as the A303 near Stonehenge.

Widely regarded as one of the UK’s worst bottlenecks, the road, an arterial route to the south-west of England which narrows from two lanes to just one near the famous monument, is expected to be busy on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in both directions.

RAC chiefs expect the A303 near Stonehenge to be busiest on Friday morning, late Saturday morning and around the middle of the day on Sunday.

Meanwhile the M25, commonly dubbed the ‘Road to Hell’, is expected to be busy across the weekend. According to the RAC, it will be busiest in Surrey, clockwise from J8 (Reigate) to J16 (Langley Corner/M40) around late morning on Friday and in the same place around midday on Saturday.

Again, the same stretch of the London orbital motorway will be busiest on Sunday around midday and early afternoon on Sunday.

The stretch includes junctions for Heathrow Airport, the M3, the M40, the M4 and the A3, making it one of the most concentrated sections for major motorway connections on the M25.

In the north the M6 north between junction 26 (Liverpool) to junction 36 (South Lakes) will be one of the busiest stretches on Good Friday, as motorists head to the Lake District and Scotland. It is expected to be busiest around middle of the day on Friday.

The M6 South from junction 20 (Runcorn/M56) to junction 16 (Stoke-on-Trent) is also expected to be busy around the early evening time on Easter Monday.

Similarly, on Easter Monday, the M3 north from junction 14 (Eastleigh/M27) to junction 7 (Basingstoke) is also expected to be busy late afternoon.

RAC bosses say the best time to drive is before 9am and after 7.30pm on Good Friday, after 3pm on Saturday and Sunday, and before 10.30am and after 6.30pm on Monday in order to avoid the rush.

RAC traffic spokesperson Rod Dennis said: ‘After two years of relatively quiet Easter bank holidays on the roads, our research suggests a return to traffic levels that are much more typical of this time of year, and it’s very possible this weekend could turn out to be one of the busiest for leisure journeys for many years. 

Traffic both clockwise and anti clockwise on the M25 was already heavy by late afternoon today, as people travel for the Easter Bank Holiday Weekend

Traffic both clockwise and anti clockwise on the M25 was already heavy by late afternoon today, as people travel for the Easter Bank Holiday Weekend

As many as 21.5million car journeys are expected to be made in the UK across the four-day Easter weekend, the first free of Covid restrictions in more than two years. This graphic shows when and where drivers are likely to hit traffic this weekend, according to the RAC using data from INRIX

RAC chiefs expect the A303 near Stonehenge to be busiest on Friday morning, late Saturday morning and around the middle of the day on Sunday. Pictured in 2020

RAC chiefs expect the A303 near Stonehenge to be busiest on Friday morning, late Saturday morning and around the middle of the day on Sunday. Pictured in 2020

What are the travel pinch points Britons face this weekend?

Roads

As many as 21.5million leisure trips are expected to be made by car between Good Friday and Easter Monday. Usual pinch points, including A303 Stonehenge, the M6 north between Liverpool and The Lake District, and the M25 clockwise around Heathrow Airport.

Trains

Rail passengers are also being warned of Easter delays as Network Rail carries out 530 engineering projects costing a total of £83million. There will also be major disruption on Transpennine services due to industrial action, while London’s Piccadilly Line and Gatwick Express will disrupt travel to and from both Heathrow and Gatwick.

Airports

Industry chiefs are warning of more queues and delays at UK airports this week due to ongoing staffing issues. The union representing Border Force officials, the Immigration Services Union (ISU), is also warning that ‘catastrophic understaffing’ and an influx of passengers returning to the UK after the Easter school holidays could lead to long queues at Border Control. 

The Port of Dover  

Channel crossings have been delayed in recent weeks since P&O Ferries stopped its movements from Dover to Calais in the aftermath of its decision to sack 800 of its crew without notice. And now the firm has confirmed it will not undertake passenger sailings between Dover and Calais this Easter weekend- regarded by industry experts as the most intense for Channel crossings. The emergency Operation Brock Zero, which closes off traffic to non-freight vehicles on the M20 in order to stack lorries wanting to cross the Channel, has been activated and remains in place. P&O had planned to restart its crossings in time for Good Friday. But the firm suffered a setback yesterday when it was announced the Maritime and Coastguard Agency had detained a second vessel over safety fears. 

‘Add in the impact of disruption on the rail network and one of the biggest fixtures of the sporting calendar taking place this weekend and you have all the ingredients needed for problems on the roads. Traffic volumes will likely be even higher if some warm spring sunshine makes an appearance.

‘The key to avoiding the worst of any jams is planning. Put simply, the earlier you leave in the morning the more likely you are to miss the worst of the queues, especially if you are travelling a longer distance – although a fifth of drivers we polled said they were planning on driving shorter distances this Easter, specifically because of the extremely high cost of petrol and diesel at the moment.’

Mr Dennis also urged drivers to ensure their cars are ‘road ready’, by ensuring their cars have enough fuel, topped up oil, enough coolant and road-legal tyres before they travel. 

‘As well as leading to queues of traffic, vehicle breakdowns also have the potential to ruin the long weekend for drivers and anyone they’re travelling with, so we’re urging people to make sure they’re vehicles are ‘road-ready’ before setting out,’ Mr Dennis added.

The Easter weekend rush to the roads will come despite fuel prices spiralling in the UK in recent months.

In recent days, diesel stocks have dropped, averaging 23 per cent at filling stations in eastern England as of April 10, compared with a pre-pandemic level of 48 per cent.

In London, diesel stock levels have dropped to 24 per cent, down from 46 per cent pre-pandemic, while in south-east England they have fallen to 26 per cent, down from 47 per cent.

The average price of a litre of unleaded petrol stood at 161.8p as of April 11, slightly below the recent record of 165.4p, while diesel was 176.2p, below the recent record of 177.5p.

During the fuel shortages at the end of September last year, petrol supplies fell as low as 12 per cent in eastern England and the South East, and 13 per cent in London.

However experts believe, even with high fuel prices, there will still be record traffic numbers this weeked.  Bob Pishue, INRIX Transportation Analyst, said: ‘Even with a significant increase in petrol prices, we expect a large jump in holiday driving compared to the last few years. 

‘Drivers should expect congestion on major roadways around urban areas and popular destinations. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.’

National Highways customer services director Melanie Clarke said: ‘This is the first bank holiday of the year, so we expect the roads to be busy with people looking to make the most of a long weekend. To help keep disruption to a minimum, we’re lifting more than a thousand of miles of roadworks.

‘The last thing anybody wants on the way to their destination is to have a vehicle breakdown. That’s why it’s really important people spend a few minutes checking the condition of their tyres before setting off.’ 

And those hoping to miss the airports rush Thursday faced queueing chaos at Manchester and Birmingham, while British Airways phone lines were said to be clogged by eight weeks’ worth of furious customers checking if their flights have been cancelled.

Passengers said they were met with ‘utterly shambolic’ scenes after arriving Thursday morning at Terminal 2 of Manchester Airport, where customers say they had a 90 minute wait for their luggage.

Others said how queues for security stretched outside Terminal 1 and into the car park – mirroring scenes seen earlier this week.

One passenger, Lukasz Ceglecki, from Burton upon Trent, said although there were lengthy queues, they were moving ‘relatively’ quickly.

At Birmingham Airport, passengers complained of waiting in hour long ‘fast track’ queues for security, despite customers paying at least £4-per-person for the priority service.

Joe Clifford, 23, who was flying to Malaga in Spain, said it took him about an hour to get through security due to ‘very long queues’.

Dozens of British Airways and EasyJet flights to and from Heathrow and Gatwick were cancelled.

BA passengers are said to be facing clogged customer support lines. Frustrated passengers are reportedly struggling to get through to support services, after asking customers flying in the next eight weeks to check in with the airline about their upcoming flights. 

Rail passengers have also been warned of delays as Network Rail carries out 530 engineering projects costing a total of £83 million.

This includes the closure of the West Coast Main Line between London Euston and Milton Keynes for four days from Good Friday due to upgrades of the existing line and HS2 work.

Parts of the railway between Birmingham International station and Coventry will also be closed, as will lines around Crewe station.

Those at London St Pancras said there were long queues for services to Europe on Thursday morning.

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

Passengers queue to check in for the Eurostar international rail service at London St Pancras train station this afternoon

One passenger heading for France said he had waited for over an hour due to staff shortages.

A West Ham fan heading for his side’s Europa League second leg tie against Lyon said there was ‘carnage’ at the station.

And in a further blow, P&O Ferries Wednesday night announced it would not run any services between Dover and Calais this weekend, dashing the holiday hopes of thousands of Britons hoping to hop the Channel to France.

A spokesperson for the firm said: ‘We apologise unreservedly to all customers whose scheduled journeys with us between Dover and Calais have been cancelled whilst we are unable to sail.

‘It is only fair and right that we make alternative arrangements for those customers, which include transferring them on to our Hull-Europoort service to Rotterdam, or booking them on to services with Brittany Ferries between Portsmouth and Caen. ‘ 

It said this would come at no extra cost for customers, with mileage expenses reimbursed and a 25% discount on the original fee.

The firm last night it would not run any passenger services between Dover and Calais this weekend, dashing the four-day weekend getaway hopes of thousands. Yesterday the MCA detained The Spirit of Britain in the Port of Dover after finding 'deficiencies' during a safety inspection. The Pride of Kent was also detained earlier this month.

The firm last night it would not run any passenger services between Dover and Calais this weekend, dashing the four-day weekend getaway hopes of thousands. Yesterday the MCA detained The Spirit of Britain in the Port of Dover after finding ‘deficiencies’ during a safety inspection. The Pride of Kent was also detained earlier this month.

In a move that will dash the four-day weekend getaway hopes of thousands, P&O Ferries last night confirmed the suspension of its services would continue over Easter. Pictured: Queues on the entrance to the Ports of Dover on April 9

In a move that will dash the four-day weekend getaway hopes of thousands, P&O Ferries last night confirmed the suspension of its services would continue over Easter. Pictured: Queues on the entrance to the Ports of Dover on April 9

Eurotunnel bosses Thursday told MailOnline how they had seen a surge in bookings due to the P&O suspension. John Keefe, Director of Public Affairs at Getlink/Eurotunnel, also said passengers had elected to book earlier Channel crossings in a bid to avoid the rush Good Friday rush.

He said: ‘It is a pattern we are seeing more and more – people booking off-peak times. If you travel during peak times you pay more for travel and you are travelling with more people. It is something we saw a lot in the last half-term and we have seen again this time.’

One arrival at Manchester Airport complained said they waited more than an hour and a half to get through baggage reclaim. In a post on Twitter, they said: ‘Utterly shambolic scenes in Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport.

‘When a cleaner is the only person to provide any information on why we have no bags after 90 minutes. Even then she doesn’t know when we will get them.’

Others complained of disruption at Terminal 1 and long queues at security. One Twitter user wrote: ‘Security queue snaking out into the car park.’

At Birmingham Airport, others complained of chaotic queuing at security. One, sharing a picture of a disorganised looking crowd of people waiting to go into the security area, wrote: ‘Queues at Birmingham Airport right now.’

Another, sharing a similar image, said: ‘Birmingham Airport this morning. One hour to get through security with fast track. Glad we did the twilight jeck with Jet2 the night before.

‘All of the staff did their utmost to keep everyone moving. A good experience considering the amount of people.’ 

Traffic builds up in both directions on the western section of London's M25 orbital motorway by junction 13 in Surrey today

Traffic builds up in both directions on the western section of London’s M25 orbital motorway by junction 13 in Surrey today

Heavy traffic on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey this afternoon as the Easter holiday getaway begins

Heavy traffic on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey this afternoon as the Easter holiday getaway begins

Heavy traffic on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey this afternoon as the Easter holiday getaway begins

Heavy traffic on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey this afternoon as the Easter holiday getaway begins

Heavy traffic on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey this afternoon as the Easter holiday getaway begins

Heavy traffic on the M25 at Leatherhead in Surrey this afternoon as the Easter holiday getaway begins

Highway maintenance vehicles and cones close one of the tunnels from Kent to Essex at the Dartford crossing following a fuel spill today

Highway maintenance vehicles and cones close one of the tunnels from Kent to Essex at the Dartford crossing following a fuel spill today

Highway maintenance vehicles and cones close one of the tunnels at the Dartford crossing following a fuel spill today

Highway maintenance vehicles and cones close one of the tunnels at the Dartford crossing following a fuel spill today

Highway maintenance vehicles and cones close one of the tunnels at the Dartford crossing following a fuel spill today

Highway maintenance vehicles and cones close one of the tunnels at the Dartford crossing following a fuel spill today

A spokesperson for Birmingham Airport told MailOnline: ‘Another busy start with 15,000 customers booked to fly out of BHX today on their Easter breaks. 

‘Once people cleared our boarding pass gate, average wait times for security this morning ranged from 15 minutes to just over half an hour as queues ebbed and flowed.

‘Yesterday 11,300 customer flew out of BHX. Of those, 83 per cent were through security in under 20 minutes.’   

Meanwhile, Al Titterington, Terminal Operations Director for Birmingham Airport, urged passengers to arrive early at the airport this weekend, which he said bosses expected to be busy.

Passengers say they were met with 'utterly shambolic' scenes after arriving this morning at Terminal 2 of Manchester Airport, where customers say they had a 90 minute wait for their luggage

Passengers say they were met with ‘utterly shambolic’ scenes after arriving this morning at Terminal 2 of Manchester Airport, where customers say they had a 90 minute wait for their luggage

At Birmingham Airport, passengers complained of waiting in hour long 'fast track' queues for security, despite customers paying £4-per-person for the priority service

At Birmingham Airport, passengers complained of waiting in hour long ‘fast track’ queues for security, despite customers paying £4-per-person for the priority service

Passengers at Birmingham Airport complained of chaotic scenes at security today as thousands set out on their Easter weekend getaways

Passengers at Birmingham Airport complained of chaotic scenes at security today as thousands set out on their Easter weekend getaways

Passengers at Manchester Airport today faced long queues as they prepared to jet out on their Easter weekend getaway

Passengers at Manchester Airport today faced long queues as they prepared to jet out on their Easter weekend getaway

Others said how queues for security stretched outside Terminal 1 and into the car park - mirroring scenes seen earlier this week

Others said how queues for security stretched outside Terminal 1 and into the car park – mirroring scenes seen earlier this week

He said: ‘We’re expecting more than 150,000 customers to fly in and out of Birmingham Airport over the Easter weekend.

‘Our message to departing customers is to arrive at the airport to check in, or drop off baggage, at the time your airline advises and help us help you keep queues moving by presenting compliant hand luggage – removing all liquids, gels, pastes and electrical items – at the security x-ray scanners.’

Meanwhile, a Manchester Airport spokesperson said: ‘We can confirm that unfortunately due to staff shortages at Manchester Airport today, some customers are experiencing longer-than-usual queue times at check-in.

‘Please be assured that our teams are working as quickly as they can.’

Today one arrival at Manchester Airport complained said they waited more than an hour and a half to get through baggage reclaim. In a post on Twitter, they said: 'Utterly shambolic scenes in Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport.

At Birmingham Airport, others complained of chaotic queuing at security. One, sharing a picture of a disorganised looking crowd of people waiting to go into the security area, wrote: 'Queues at Birmingham Airport right now.'

Today one arrival at Manchester Airport complained said they waited more than an hour and a half to get through baggage reclaim. In a post on Twitter, they said: ‘Utterly shambolic scenes in Terminal 2 at Manchester Airport. At Birmingham Airport, others complained of chaotic queuing at security. One, sharing a picture of a disorganised looking crowd of people waiting to go into the security area, wrote: ‘Queues at Birmingham Airport right now.’

Another, sharing a similar image, said: 'Birmingham Airport this morning. One hour to get through security with fast track. Glad we did the twilight jeck with Jet2 the night before. 'All of the staff did their utmost to keep everyone moving. A good experience considering the amount of people.

Another, sharing a similar image, said: ‘Birmingham Airport this morning. One hour to get through security with fast track. Glad we did the twilight jeck with Jet2 the night before. ‘All of the staff did their utmost to keep everyone moving. A good experience considering the amount of people.

It comes as consumer groups Wednesday called on the Government to get tough on the aviation industry – including giving authorities the power to fine airlines. 

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said airlines, airports and the Government must make it a priority to learn from the disarray seen in recent days – ahead of the summer holiday rush later this year.

Mr Boland said: ‘Lessons should be learnt from the travel shambles this Easter. With many in the industry predicting a busy summer, the Government must work with airlines and airports to ensure they have the resources and capacity to handle increased passenger numbers, as there can be no excuse for a repeat of these failings.’

Mr Boland also criticised the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department for Transport, arguing the Government should have handed the aviation regulator fining powers to punish airlines who fail to give compensation to delayed customers.

He said: ‘Airlines wouldn’t be ignoring the law and their passengers’ rights if the aviation regulator had some teeth,’ he said. 

Holidaymakers again faced 'carnage' at Manchester Airport yesterday, with long check-in queues and delays at the security - while arrivals at Stansted are waiting in 'snail's pace' queues at passport control

Holidaymakers again faced ‘carnage’ at Manchester Airport yesterday, with long check-in queues and delays at the security – while arrivals at Stansted are waiting in ‘snail’s pace’ queues at passport control

At Stansted Airport yesterday, arrival said they were met with long queues at passport control (pictured)

At Stansted Airport yesterday, arrival said they were met with long queues at passport control (pictured)

Passengers have told MailOnline that all the e-terminals were closed  and arrivals were being channeled into a dozen manned desks

Passengers have told MailOnline that all the e-terminals were closed  and arrivals were being channeled into a dozen manned desks

Pictures show long lines of people waiting along walkways in Manchester Airport's Terminal 1 in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Passengers have also complained of hour long queues at security (pictured)

Pictures show long lines of people waiting along walkways in Manchester Airport’s Terminal 1 in the early hours of Wednesday morning. Passengers have also complained of hour long queues at security (pictured)

Q&A: What is the reason for the airport chaos – and what should passengers be doing about it? 

What is the reason for the airport chaos?

Aviation chiefs have blamed a perfect storm of problems on the recent airport disruption. Passenger numbers plunged during the height of the Covid pandemic, and airport and airline operations were downsized as a result. And some firms say they have struggled to ramp up their operations quickly enough to meet demand – which has surged again over the Easter school holidays. With all UK Covid travel restrictions now lifted, airports have reported passenger numbers have risen up to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. And they are expected to continue rising this summer – which is the busiest time of year for the aviation sector. On top of longer-term staff shortages and an increase in passenger numbers, airports and aviation firms say they are currently facing a wave of Covid absences which has exacerbated the existing problems.

But surely companies were aware this rush was coming – why haven’t they just restaffed?

Airline and airport staff, like any job, require training. But unlike many professions, there are extra steps, including obtaining security clearances and background checks. This whole process can take up to six months in the most sensitive of roles – such as immigration officers with Border Force – and the Government, firms and unions say they have no intention of cutting corners on security. Some industry bosses have also suggested Brexit has played a role, because airlines no longer have access to a pool of EU workers to fill the gaps.

So when will it be fixed?

Unfortunately, some travel experts have warned the delays could last up to six months in some areas of the airports where staff require more extensive training and security and background checks. The issue has, for now, mainly been with outbound passengers queuing at check-in and airport security. But the Immigration Services Union – which represents Border Force officials – warns that there could be long delays at passport control areas from Bank Holiday Monday when many UK holidaymakers return. Speaking about the airport crisis Ms Moreton told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘Border Force isn’t immune to this. There have been staffing problems within Border Force for some time. Border Force is no longer attracting enough candidates to fill the vacancies that they’ve got. Combined with the fact it takes nearly a year to fully train a Border Force officer, going into not just this summer, this weekend, catastrophically understaffed, with people beginning to travel again… we do anticipate that the queues will move from security based queues going outward to Border Force queues coming back in.’

So what should passengers do?

Many airports, including Manchester, which has been one of the worst hit transport hubs, and Stansted, have urged passengers to arrive early to mitigate for longer queues and to avoid potentially missing their flights. Usually passengers are advised to arrive at least two-hours early for their flights, but many airports are urging arrivals to turn up three-hours in advance. Unfortunately, there is no set in stone policy for compensation or refunds on flights missed due to airport delays – unlike if a flight is cancelled or delayed – so passengers should arrive early to avoid any problems. If boarding is approaching and customers are stuck in a queue, it is advised to let a member of airport staff know and they may be able to fast-track you.

What if my flight is delayed or cancelled?

Along with longer queues, passengers have also been hit with a wave of flight cancellations and delays. Yesterday, easyJet axed 32 flights. However it said all the flights were cancelled in advance and passengers had been given prior warning.  Meanwhile, BA has reduced its schedule by 50 flights due to staff shortages. Under current rules, passengers delayed by more than three hours, or those whose flights are cancelled at short notice, are entitled to at least £220 in compensation. They also have the right to be re-routed or refunded, except in ‘extraordinary circumstances’.  

‘The Department for Transport can support consumers by equipping the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with direct fining powers. 

‘It should also drop its plans to change compensation rules for UK flights which are an important deterrent against passengers being treated unfairly.’ 

Under current rules, passengers delayed by more than three hours, or those whose flights are cancelled at short notice, are entitled to at least £220 in compensation.

They also have the right to be re-routed or refunded, except in ‘extraordinary circumstances’. However consumer groups have claimed that passengers are not always being offered or given what they are entitled to.

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport is also proposing changes to the legislation, which would see compensation capped at the ticket price on domestic routes.   

It comes as holidaymakers were earlier this week warned to brace for major disruption at passport halls until summer due to the ‘catastrophic understaffing’ of Border Force. 

While pressure is currently on understaffed airports flying jet-setting Britons out of the country, union bosses have sounded the alarm about the possibility of chaos for UK arrivals on Easter Monday.

Holidaymakers are expected to return in their hundreds of thousands on Monday, following a four-day weekend and the end of the Easter school holidays.

Passenger numbers could hit as high as 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels over the weekend, experts predict, at a time when airports are still struggling to re-staff after downsizing their operations during the Covid pandemic.

Figures dropped by as much as 75 per cent between 2019 and 2020, from 297million to just 74million in 2020. However airports have struggled to recruit, train and obtain security clearance for staff in time for the Easter school holidays.

This, along with Covid absences, has been behind long queues at check-in and security at airports such as Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester since Friday.

Yesterday, Grant Shapps warned Britons face a four-day weekend of travel disruption from Friday.

The Transport Secretary has sounded the alarm for the upcoming Easter weekend, warning that roads, ports and airports were likely to be ‘extremely busy’.

He also raised ‘concern’ that transport hubs were not yet ‘up to strength’ despite all of the UK’s Covid travel restrictions being lifted.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: ‘I think certainly this weekend will be extremely busy on our roads, potentially at our ports, and of course, particularly at Dover, where P&O disgracefully sacked all of their staff and then attempted to run ships that wouldn’t have been safe with replacements below minimum wage.

‘We know none of their ships are running at the moment. So I do expect there to be disruption, with no thanks to P&O there.

‘It is also the case for the very first time that Brits are able to travel much more freely that other nations because we don’t have Covid restrictions now that other places have to travel.

Grant Shapps warns of weekend of travel disruption 

Grant Shapps says Britons face a weekend of travel disruption, warning that roads, ports and airports are likely to be ‘extremely busy’.

He also raised ‘concern’ that transport hubs were not yet ‘up to strength’ despite all of the UK’s Covid travel restrictions being lifted.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, he said: ‘I think certainly this weekend will be extremely busy on our roads, potentially at our ports, and of course, particularly at Dover, where P&O disgracefully sacked all of their staff and then attempted to run ships that wouldn’t have been safe with replacements below minimum wage.

‘We know none of their ships are running at the moment. So I do expect there to be disruption, with no thanks to P&O there.

‘It is also the case for the very first time that Brits are able to travel much more freely that other nations because we don’t have Covid restrictions now that other places have to travel.

‘People want to travel. I’m very concerned the operators, the airlines, the airports, the ports, do ensure that they get back to strength and quickly.

‘They have lost a lot of people during the pandemic, we have been warning them for a long time that they would need to gear up again.

‘I’m very keen to ensure that they manage, what always is at Easter weekend, a very busy weekend on our transport network.’

‘People want to travel. I’m very concerned the operators, the airlines, the airports, the ports, do ensure that they get back to strength and quickly.

‘They have lost a lot of people during the pandemic, we have been warning them for a long time that they would need to gear up again.

‘I’m very keen to ensure that they manage, what always is at Easter weekend, a very busy weekend on our transport network.’

Meanwhile, officials now have warned that an influx of passengers arriving back in the UK, combined with staffing issues within Border Force, could result in huge queues and long waits at airport immigration halls. 

Lucy Moreton, General Secretary of the Immigration Services Union (ISU), also said  Border Force employees were being moved from transport hub in the south to Dover to help process migrants crossing the Channel in small boats. 

Those staff, she said, are in turn being replaced by immigration officials from airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland. However she warned this was leading to spiralling costs for the taxpayer.

Speaking about the airport crisis Ms Moreton told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme: ‘Border Force isn’t immune to this. There have been staffing problems within Border Force for some time. 

‘And for the first time in living memory, Border Force is no longer attracting enough candidates to fill the vacancies that they’ve got.

‘Combined with the fact it takes nearly a year to fully train a Border Force officer, going into not just this summer, this weekend, catastrophically understaffed, with people beginning to travel again, and of course those that went out earlier this week will be coming back by the middle of next week, the school holidays having finished.

‘We do anticipate that the queues will move from security based queues going outward to Border Force queues coming back in.’

Speaking about Border Force having to move staff around to manage demand, she said: ‘To a certain extent it also depends on things we can’t control – for example small boat migration. We can’t roster people for that. 

Yesterday, one passenger at Manchester Airport took to Twitter to complain about 60-minute long security queues at Manchester Airport.

They wrote: 'Carnage at T1. We were lucky with a pram so bag drop was quick. But security took an hour.' Another wrote: 'Poor show at arrivals. Is this the best you can do?'.

Yesterday, one passenger at Manchester Airport took to Twitter to complain about 60-minute long security queues at Manchester Airport. They wrote: ‘Carnage at T1. We were lucky with a pram so bag drop was quick. But security took an hour.’ Another wrote: ‘Poor show at arrivals. Is this the best you can do?’.

 

At Birmingham Airport yesterday, passengers fumed at suffering 'the sh**est experience in the world' while waiting at the Midlands transport hub

Pictured: Passengers fumed at baggage wait times at Birmingham Airport this morning

At Birmingham Airport yesterday, passengers fumed at suffering ‘the sh**est experience in the world’ while waiting at the Midlands transport hub

P&O Ferries suspends ALL passenger services across Channel over Easter 

P&O Ferries has suspended all of its passenger services across the Channel over Easter – one of the busiest travel weekends of the year – ruining the holiday plans of thousands of Britons.

The under-fire ferry firm last night revealed it would not run any passenger services between Dover and Calais this weekend.

The company, which suspended sailings afters its controversial decision to sack 800 of its crew without warning last month, had hoped to restart ahead of Good Friday.

But in a move that will dash the four-day weekend getaway hopes of thousands, P&O Ferries last night confirmed the suspension of its services would continue over Easter.

It comes after two of the firm’s vessels were detained by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) over safety fears.

Yesterday the MCA detained The Spirit of Britain in the Port of Dover after finding ‘deficiencies’ during a safety inspection. The Pride of Kent was also detained earlier this month.

P&O Ferries had hoped The Pride of Kent would be released by the MCA following a fresh inspection yesterday.

But last night the MCA revealed it had found ‘additional deficiencies’ and said the vessel would remain detained. 

In a Tweet, the ferry firm said last night: ‘Dover-Calais: April 15 to April 18. Our Passenger services are suspended this weekend. We sincerely apologise.

‘For travel April 15-18 please re-book directly with another operator before arriving. DFDS are not able to transfer P&O customers on their ships’.

Rival ferry firm DFDS, which plans to run more than 100 sailings each way per day between its two routes of Dover and Calais and Dover and Dunkirk, said it hoped to run extra crossings this weekend.

But the company urged passengers not to arrive at the Port of Dover without a booking, saying it already had high demand.

In a Tweet, the firm said: ‘DFDS has no availability for P&O customers between April 15, 00.01 and April 18, 23.59. 

‘Please do not proceed to port without a confirmed reservation, contact P&O Ferries for alternative travel arrangements.’   

‘That actually draws a lot of resources and staff in the south east so we can process people, particularly when we have a high number of arrivals.

‘So we now have the situation where staff from ports and airports and in the south east are now going to Dover to support staff there, but then staff from Scotland and Northern Ireland are being brought down to cover airports like Heathrow.’ 

However she said Home Office should not cut corners on training and security clearance in a bid to cut tackle the staffing crisis. ‘This is a law enforcement role – you don’t expect your police officer to be incompletely trained, or not security cleared. And certainly we wouldn’t want anything else for Border Force,’ she added. 

It comes as furious holidaymakers claimed Manchester Airport had descended into ‘pure chaos’ on Tuesday, with queues so long they are even stretching outside the terminal building.

Astonishing pictures appear to show airline passengers queueing in the underfloor car park of the airport outside Terminal 1 yesterday.

Inside the terminal, pictures showed huge queues at check-in and at baggage enquiries – where passengers usually go to report damaged or missing luggage. 

Some passengers said they have had to temporarily abandon their luggage at the airport due to delays. Pictured showed rows of unattended luggage by the conveyor belt.

‘Shambolic’ disruption is also said to have continued at Birmingham Airport yesterday morning. Passengers have reported 90 minute queues for security. 

Others say they saw passengers plucked out of the queues to be fast-tracked in order to stop them from missing their flights. 

Manchester Airport said queue times for security reached a maximum of 75 minutes on Tuesday.

A spokesperson said the end of the queue had stretched out of the building for a ‘brief period’, but that queues had since decreased.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Birmingham Airport told MailOnline: ‘On Monday another 15,000 customers flew out of Birmingham Airport. Once they cleared boarding card checks, 79% of those customers were through security in under 20 minutes.

‘If anyone is deep in the queue and their departure time is looming, we call them forward, so they don’t miss their flight.’

It comes as Britons have been told to brace for a summer of airport chaos as airlines struggle with low staff numbers – while emergency plans are drawn up to avoid massive passport queues for the Easter getaway.

Ministers have been accused of overseeing ‘cripplingly slow’ security checks for new airline staff, with British Airways having to cancel 64 domestic and European flights from Heathrow on Monday alone.

The increase in demand has come as airlines have been hit with staffing shortages, though, with operators citing difficulties in finding recruits, security red tape and Covid absences, The Times reports.

Astonishing pictures show airline passengers queueing in the underfloor car park of the airport outside Terminal 1 on Tuesday morning

Astonishing pictures show airline passengers queueing in the underfloor car park of the airport outside Terminal 1 on Tuesday morning

Inside the terminal on Tuesday, pictures showed huge queues at check-in and at baggage enquiries - where passengers usually go to report damaged or missing luggage

Inside the terminal on Tuesday, pictures showed huge queues at check-in and at baggage enquiries – where passengers usually go to report damaged or missing luggage

Some passengers say they have had to temporarily abandon their luggage at the airport due to delays, with pictures showing rows of unattended luggage by the conveyor belt

Some passengers say they have had to temporarily abandon their luggage at the airport due to delays, with pictures showing rows of unattended luggage by the conveyor belt

'Shambolic' disruption is also said to have continued at Birmingham Airport yesterday. Passengers reported 90 minute queues for security on Tuesday

‘Shambolic’ disruption is also said to have continued at Birmingham Airport yesterday. Passengers reported 90 minute queues for security on Tuesday

Brits are warned to now brace for a SUMMER of airport chaos as airlines struggle with low staff numbers

Britons have been told to brace for a summer of airport chaos as airlines struggle with low staff numbers – while emergency plans are drawn up to avoid massive passport queues for the Easter getaway.  

Ministers have been accused of overseeing ‘cripplingly slow’ security checks for new airline staff, with British Airways having to cancel 64 domestic and European flights from Heathrow on Monday alone.

The increase in demand has come as airlines have been hit with staffing shortages, though, with operators citing difficulties in finding recruits, security red tape and Covid absences, The Times reports.   

It comes as border guards are also now gearing up for ‘significant problems’ as millions of holidaymakers head abroad, with fears passport queues could last hours as emergency plans are drawn up for the Easter weekend.  

Good Friday is set to be the busiest day of Easter with 2,430 flights leaving the UK. Flight data specialists Cirium show 9,212 will depart over the bank holiday weekend, 78 per cent of the total in pre-pandemic 2019.

But airlines are concerned that failure to address the current issues will lead to travel chaos extending into the summer, with some families having already endured three-hour queues to get through security at some UK airports.

One industry figure told The Times: ‘The process is cripplingly slow, Aviation was one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic, suffered from a lack of targeted support, and is now facing a summer disrupted by the government being slow in vetting staff.’

Officials have accused ministers of failing to provide adequate resources to meet the increased demand as tens of thousands of potential employees await security clearance – including 12,000 at Heathrow alone.     

Vetting procedures normally take between 14 and 15 weeks, but it is understood to now be taking up to six months to screen new staff.

Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Service Union said backroom staff were being offered bonuses to man desks at Heathrow.

The volunteers, who usually carry out checks on prohibited items, will be pushed to the front lines at airports and ports to prevent chaos. Miss Moreton said border forces were already stretched due to virus absences and the Channel migrant crisis.

‘There’s the potential for significant problems at the tail-end of this week and at the weekend and planning has already started,’ she added. 

‘We’re bringing staff down from Scotland and Northern Ireland to Heathrow.

‘They get expenses and overtime and they’re being offered a cash bonus for each shift they cover at Heathrow. 

‘Some passengers will sail through, but others could be looking at several hours in a queue. It won’t be chaos universally but there will be patches.’

Meanwhile, border guards are also now gearing up for ‘significant problems’ as millions of holidaymakers head abroad, with fears passport queues could last hours as emergency plans are drawn up for the Easter weekend.

Good Friday is set to be the busiest day of Easter with 2,430 flights leaving the UK. Flight data specialists Cirium show 9,212 will depart over the bank holiday weekend, 78 per cent of the total in pre-pandemic 2019.

But airlines are concerned that failure to address the current issues will lead to travel chaos extending into the summer, with some families having already endured three-hour queues to get through security at some UK airports.

One industry figure told The Times: ‘The process is cripplingly slow, Aviation was one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic, suffered from a lack of targeted support, and is now facing a summer disrupted by the government being slow in vetting staff.’

Meanwhile, Kully Sandhu, the managing director of Aviation Recruitment Network Limited, whose firm recruits for major firms including Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme he currently had more than 300 live vacancies on his site. 

Asked how long it would take for airports to get the staff they need, he replied: ‘My personal opinion, it is going to take at least the next 12 months for the industry vacancy-wise to settle down.;

Mr Sandhu said Brexit ‘had not helped’ the situation, as recruiters were no longer able to fill vacancies with staff from the EU.

However he said airports should not cut back on their current checks on staff in order to fast-track new employees.

Asked if the security checks on new staff should be reduced or dropped, he said: ‘No, because they work. The industry works to a set of standards, that comes from the Department of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority.

‘Each airport has the option to scale their checks slightly higher if they want to, each company that operates within the airport can adapt the checks. 

‘But the fundamental basics are the same, five years of background checks to cover an individual’s background history, whether they’ve been employed, in education, any bouts of any kind of benefits, any bouts of period abroad. All these need to be identified.’

Officials have accused ministers of failing to provide adequate resources to meet the increased demand as tens of thousands of potential employees await security clearance – including 12,000 at Heathrow alone.

Vetting procedures normally take between 14 and 15 weeks, but it is understood to now be taking up to six months to screen new staff. 

Some travel firms cut huge numbers of workers in the pandemic and are racing to find staff to cope with soaring demand. But the drive is being hampered by delays in carrying out security and counter-terror checks.  

Martin Chalk, chief of the pilots’ union Balpa, said: ‘There will be problems into the summer. To be working in an airport you need an airside pass, which needs a criminal records and counter-terror check, which are taking months. The challenge won’t be answered quickly.’ 

A senior aviation source said: ‘It’s taking much longer to get the background checks done – two to three times as long – and it was already taking as long as 14 to 15 weeks.’ 

Travel operators are now at their busiest since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 4.2million passengers passed through Heathrow last month, only 35 per cent down on the 6.5million of March 2019. 

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