COPS are set to be drafted in to control frustrated passengers at airports on Saturday on what could be the busiest travel day of the year so far.
Holidaymakers are bracing for mayhem as they hope to jet away for the Easter holiday – with chaotic scenes already pictured at airports this week as huge queues build.
The post-Covid rush and staff shortages are wreaking havoc as families trying to get away, amid expectations 15,000 passengers could suffer flights cancellations today.
Customers have been left queueing for hours at airports to get through security, but it’s feared the situation will worsen on Saturday as people arrive home and others set off for an Easter break.
Police are to be drafted in to Manchester Airport this weekend to help solve the crisis after the boss quit after days of travel chaos and warnings passengers will face delays for months to come.
Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports, confirmed this week that managing director Karen Smart has decided to leave the business after eight years.
But despite her decision to bail, there’ll be no respite for customers desperate to get away.
Long queues and delays could continue for months as a result of Covid staff shortages and a slow return to recruitment.
General secretary of pilots union BALPA Martin Chalk said: “The chaos witnessed at British airports may well be repeated throughout the summer because airlines, laden with debt, have not yet rehired enough staff.”
He added that he “warned ministers” of Easter disruption, but nothing was done to prevent it.
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Manchester Airport has blamed their delays on staffing issues, when holidaymakers were seen “jumping over barriers” and trays piling up at security scanners over the weekend.
Meanwhile, easyJet and British Airways have been forced to cancel hundreds of flights this week, due to staffing issues.
The problems are the result of a perfect storm of issues, including Covid sickness, staff shortages, IT problems, bad weather and the mass redundancies at P&O Ferries.
Airports both in the UK and at top tourist destinations abroad have struggled to cope with the surge in holiday traffic over recent weeks – which is set to escalate again this weekend.
Recruitment at airports and airlines, which haemorrhaged staff during mass border closures in first two years of the pandemic, hasn’t yet caught up with renewed interest in travel.
British Airways has reduced its schedule between now and the end of May to try and avoid more travel problems, after thousands of passengers had their flight cancelled due to IT issues.
The airline giant cancelled 78 flights from Heathrow, while EasyJet was forced to cancel around 100 flights on Monday – 62 of which were set to take off from the UK – and another 60 flights on Tuesday.
But it isn’t just the airports facing problems – the suspension of P&O services saw queues up to nine hours last weekend coming into Dover.
With many P&O services ditched, it’s feared it could cause even more chaos this weekend as major queues form in Dover – stretching for miles.
The disgraced P&O Ferries channel crossing operator found itself in hot water last month after sacking 800 staff – forcing a suspension of services.
Customers with ferry tickets already booked had been able to travel with another operator, DFDS, since the chaos erupted – but the agreement is coming to an end on Friday as families rush to rebook with other companies.