More than 170 flights have been cancelled again on Tuesday as thousands of airline passengers face another day of disruption. EasyJet cancelled at least 35 flights on Tuesday (June 7), with Gatwick the worst affected airport, while Hungarian carrier Wizz Air axed at least seven flights due to serve UK airports.
British Airways cancelled 124 Heathrow flights, although the airline said affected passengers were given advance notice. There were reports of passengers being left in tears at Gatwick after their flights were cancelled. Diego Garcia Rodriguez, 32, a Spanish national who lives in Brighton, said: “I have seen lots of people whose flights have been cancelled, some crying and stressing out and they only got the news after having gone through the security control so they didn’t know how to get out. There was no information and it was all very chaotic.”
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Travel agents say they are being inundated with telephone calls from customers worried that their summer holidays will be disrupted as flight chaos continues.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, which represents independent travel agents, said its members are receiving “a significant number of calls” from concerned customers. She told the PA news agency: “About 30% of all calls that they’re receiving now are from customers that are reading the headlines, have bookings for July and August in the school holidays, and they are worried.”
Ms Bue-Said acknowledged that the situation is “hideous and disappointing” for passengers whose flights are being cancelled. But she said travel agents are attempting to reassure customers that “in the vast majority of cases flights are departing and arriving”. She added: “We’re trying to give a bit of perspective.”
In recent months many passengers whose flights have gone ahead reported being stuck in airport queues for several hours. Passengers at Bristol Airport have been facing queues at security and long wait times for bags to be loaded onto planes.
On Monday night Deacon Blue lead singer Ricky Ross tweeted that he was stuck in Bristol Airport and was looking at alternative ways to get home. Lots of fans replied offering him a lift home to Scotland, but in an update he said: “We drove up from Bristol ourselves and accepted no lifts from nobody. Is that a good metaphor or what!”
The airport has called on the UK Government to speed up security vetting for new recruits, so it can get more people working sooner.
Head of customer operations Richard Thomasson claimed it can take up to 12 weeks for clearance to come through. He told the BBC: “Anything the government can do to really fast track that process will really help us.”
The airport is hoping to recruit 100 extra staff to help with the issues at a careers fair this week (Thursday, 9 June) with the hope that as many new recruits as possible will be able to start work in time for the summer holidays.
Ms Bue-Said revealed that the number of people who jetted off during last week’s half-term school holiday was 21% higher than 2019 levels, while summer holiday bookings are at around 80% of normal. This represents a “huge surge in demand” compared with the previous two years when the industry was “shut down” due to coronavirus restrictions.
She said: “The significant surge has created a bottleneck in the system. The industry is now working really hard to make sure that over the next few weeks we are building resilience and scaling up as much as we can from a workforce point of view to meet customer demand and, frankly, give them a much better experience in some cases than they’re experiencing now.”
She added: “I’m confident that the industry will get to a point where these bottlenecks will be sorted.” It all comes as hundreds of check-in and ground staff employed by British Airways at Heathrow began voting on strike action on Tuesday. Members of the Unite and GMB unions are being balloted in a dispute over pay which could cause chaos at the UK’s busiest airport during the summer holiday period.