Hundreds queue at Manchester airport at dawn

British holidaymakers catching early morning flights from Manchester Airport today were packed together in massive queues at check-in due to staffing shortages caused by Covid isolation – as millions of people brace for yet another Bank Holiday weekend of travel chaos.

Hundreds of travellers were pictured filling up Manchester’s hall as early as 3.10am as the hardhit aviation industry tries to overcome pressures caused by the ‘perfect storm’ of staff absences, mass layoffs during the pandemic, and people flying abroad for European sun for the first time in two years.

But millions of families who may have tried to avoid the travel hell over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend by going on a staycation this time are now being warned to prepare for chaos, as 17million motorists are set to hit the roads while £70million worth of rail engineering works as well as strikes threaten to shut down whole swathes of Britain’s network.

A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: ‘We apologise to passengers who have encountered longer queues than they may be used to this morning. We are in the process of recovering after the most damaging two years in our industry’s history, and whilst we have made strong progress on recruitment, unfortunately we remain some way short of where we need to be.

‘It is still the case that most passengers will pass through security in fewer than 30 minutes, but at peak times queues may rise to between 60 and 90 minutes. 

‘As such we are advising passengers to arrive three hours before their departure, and to double-check that their hand luggage is compliant with rules on liquids and electrical items. If they do this, we are confident we will get them on their way this Bank Holiday weekend.’

More than 3million drivers will take leisure trips today alone, followed by 3million tomorrow and more than 2million on Sunday, according to the RAC.

Meanwhile, track and signal upgrades mean 550 routes will be closed over the three-day weekend, with trains on the West Coast Mainline from the North West and West Midlands stopping at Milton Keynes Central rather than running into London Euston.  

Long queue of passengers at London’s St Pancras International station, April 29, 2022

UK travellers pictured packed together in massive queues at Manchester Airport this morning

UK travellers pictured packed together in massive queues at Manchester Airport this morning

Passengers at London's Euston rail station as the May Bank holiday getaway begins, April 29, 2022

Passengers at London’s Euston rail station as the May Bank holiday getaway begins, April 29, 2022

Traffic queues on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich, South East London, April 29, 2022

Traffic queues on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich, South East London, April 29, 2022

57073999 10766301 image a 11 1651216910399 Long queue of passengers at London's St Pancras International station, April 29, 2022

Long queue of passengers at London’s St Pancras International station, April 29, 2022

British holidaymakers queued as early as 3.10am at check-in at Manchester Airport

British holidaymakers queued as early as 3.10am at check-in at Manchester Airport

Where do rail passengers face chaos this weekend? 

MAJOR DISRUPTIONS

  • No Avanti West Coast or London Northwestern Railway trains between London Euston and Milton Keynes Central all weekend
  • No London Overground trains between London Euston and Watford Junction all weekend
  • No Gatwick Express trains between London Victoria and Gatwick Airport all weekend
  • No Southern trains between London Victoria and East Croydon
  • No Stansted Express trains between Waltham Cross and Stansted Airport

OTHER DISRUPTIONS

  • No c2c trains between Basildon and Shoeburyness or between Barking and Liverpool Street on Sunday
  • No CrossCountry, LNER or ScotRail trains between Edinburgh and Motherwell all weekend
  • No CrossCountry trains between Birmingham New Street and Coleshill Parkway all weekend
  • No East Midlands Railway trains between Sheffield, Derby and Leicester on Sunday morning
  • No Grand Central trains between Sunderland and Hartlepool on Saturday and Sunday
  • No Great Northern trains between Finsbury Park and Moorgate all weekend
  • No Great Northern trains between Ely and Kings Lynn on Saturday and Sunday
  • No Greater Anglia trains between Stansted Airport and Waltham Cross all weekend
  • No Northern trains between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge all weekend
  • No Northern trains between Newcastle and Hartlepool on Saturday and Sunday
  • No South Western Railway trains between Ascot and Reading on Sunday
  • TransPennine Express: Strike action on Saturday and Sunday

RAC traffic spokesperson Rod Dennis said: ‘Easter might only have been a couple of weeks ago, but it looks as though plenty of drivers are still looking to make the most of this May Day bank holiday. 

We expect routes to classic tourist hotspots – especially the coasts – to clog up on Friday afternoon and through Saturday morning, although according to our research Monday could turn out to be the busiest day of the long weekend.

‘Preparation is paramount though to avoid an inconvenient breakdown at the side of the road – it’s a fact that the majority of the jobs our patrols will attend this weekend will be avoidable if drivers spend just a little time checking their vehicles are ‘road-ready’.’

Birmingham Airport passengers have been hit by long delays during the Bank Holiday getaway – with claims some are ‘stuck on a plane on the runway’. It comes after weeks of chaos for some travellers at the West Midlands hub.

People have taken to social media to share images as they waited in line to get through to their flights. At least two Twitter users claimed they were stranded on the runway after arriving on a LoganAir flight from Inverness.

The Solihull hub has been described as ‘hell’ by some holidaymakers over the past month. The relaxation of international travel rules made Easter holidays possible for the first time since 2019 but airports across the UK claimed staff shortages had sent wait times rocketing.

Michael Sutcliffe, from Scotland, had been waiting to board his delayed flight. It took him 90 minutes to get through security.

He claimed there was ‘chaos’ at security today with queues ‘right through both terminals’, adding: ‘Many folk at risk of missing flights. One poor staff member trying to deal with customer frustrations. Where is the management?’

Nathan Langton said this morning: ‘This is a new one. Arrived on LoganAir flight at Birmingham and at the gate. But no ground staff to even put chocks on wheels, or open doors to the terminal. Pilot has got off the plane to ‘see if he can flag someone to help’.’

And another user in the queue wrote: ‘I’m currently in the fast track queue and it’s quicker to go in the normal queue. Been here over 20 mins while people who haven’t paid are going pass and through security absolutely a joke!!’

A Birmingham Airport spokesperson said: ‘We had a busy start today with around 16,500 customers booked to fly out. Queues were long but managed and moving. We thank customers for their patience and understanding.

‘Once people cleared our boarding pass gate, wait times for security ranged from 15 minutes to just over half an hour.

‘As always, our message to departing customers is: please arrive at the airport 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 – before the security x-ray scanners.’

There will also be no Southern trains into London Victoria on Sunday and Monday due to signalling upgrades, causing problems for travellers to and from Gatwick Airport and the south coast. 

Some of the routes were also shut over the recent Easter Bank Holiday weekend, raising questions about why the upgrades weren’t finished then.

They will have to go via London Bridge instead, making these services much busier. There will also be a reduced number of trains through Gatwick Airport due to station building work. 

Roof renewal works at London Liverpool Street mean services to and from Essex will be cancelled and will run from Fenchurch Street instead. Engineering works in the North East, Cheshire, Manchester and Cumbria will also see some Northern rail services replaced with buses.

Buses will replace trains between Newcastle, Sunderland and Hartlepool, Manchester Piccadilly, Stockport, Macclesfield and Stoke-on-Trent and Carlisle and Maryport.

There will also be disruption for passengers travelling to Stansted Airport from the capital and between London and Cambridge due to track upgrades near Bishops Stortford.

Strike and engineering work to cause Bank Holiday mayhem 

Rail passengers embarking on a bank holiday getaway face disruption due to strike action and engineering projects.

TransPennine Express (TPE), which operates across northern England and into Scotland, urged passengers not to travel on Saturday or Sunday due to a walkout by conductors who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

The firm said it will only run ‘a very small number of services’ on those days.

The industrial action is part of a long-running dispute over pay and rosters.

TPE customer experience director Kathryn O’Brien said: ‘With further action by RMT taking place this weekend, we are urging customers once again to avoid travel on our services and travel either side of the weekend instead.

‘We are saddened and disappointed that this disruption will mean we are unable to get our customers to where they want to be this bank holiday weekend.’

The RMT has said the strike aims to achieve ‘pay justice for hard-working staff’.

Engineering work in the Motherwell area means no TPE trains will run between Carlisle and Glasgow Central or Edinburgh.

More than 95% of the rail network will be unaffected by the work taking place, according to Network Rail.

The organisation’s chief executive Andrew Haines said: ‘While the majority of our network will be open for business as usual, we’re asking passengers who are planning to use the railway over the Early May bank holiday to check their journey in advance.

‘Teams across Network Rail will be delivering £70 million worth of upgrades, helping to make the railway more reliable and fit for the future.’

To make matter worse, a 48-hour strike ordered by the militant RMT union means TransPennine Express trains across the north of England will be severely disrupted on Saturday and Sunday.

TransPennine Express (TPE), which operates across northern England and into Scotland, urged passengers not to travel on Saturday or Sunday due to a walkout by conductors who are members of the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union.

The firm said it will only run ‘a very small number of services’ on those days. The industrial action is part of a long-running dispute over pay and rosters. 

TPE customer experience director Kathryn O’Brien said: ‘With further action by RMT taking place this weekend, we are urging customers once again to avoid travel on our services and travel either side of the weekend instead.

‘We are saddened and disappointed that this disruption will mean we are unable to get our customers to where they want to be this bank holiday weekend.’

The RMT has said the strike aims to achieve ‘pay justice for hard-working staff’.

Several rail lines will be closed over the Early May bank holiday period as Network Rail carries out 550 upgrade projects.

Dave Penney, Network Rail’s passenger director for the North West and Central region, warned rail passengers to avoid travelling over the three day weekend.

He said: ‘We made great progress on major railway improvements over Easter and I’d like to thank passengers for their continued patience while we carry out more must-do work between 30 April and 2 May.

‘We know there is never an ideal time to shut the railway but bank holidays continue to be the least disruptive time for us to carry out this essential maintenance.’

There could also be disruption on the roads with millions expected to jump behind the wheel for the three-day weekend.

Around half of Britain’s 33million motorists are expected to take to the roads, with the RAC predicting that Monday will be the busiest day.

Stretches of the M6, M25, M3, M20 and A303 around Stonehenge could become congested.

It follows warnings that holidaymakers face a summer of travel misery after Grant Shapps revealed British Airways is ‘proactively’ axing more flights.

The Transport Secretary said he spoke to BA boss Sean Doyle on Tuesday amid growing fears of a summer of travel chaos.

Passengers at London's Euston rail station as the May Bank holiday getaway begins, April 29, 2022

Passengers at London’s Euston rail station as the May Bank holiday getaway begins, April 29, 2022

Traffic queues on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich, South East London, April 29, 2022

Traffic queues on the A102M Blackwall Tunnel approach in Greenwich, South East London, April 29, 2022

Frustrated passengers are pictured queueing at Manchester Airport's check-in early this morning

Frustrated passengers are pictured queueing at Manchester Airport’s check-in early this morning

It comes after the flagship carrier cancelled more than 1,500 flights over the last month as it struggles to meet surging post-pandemic demand amid recruitment problems. The airline says customers were given at least several days’ notice.

But critics say it causes chaos for travellers who have booked train tickets or transfers to airports or who may have to cut trips short if they can’t fly on the original departure date or reach an event on time. They also accuse airlines of scheduling an unrealistic number of flights after sacking thousands of staff during the pandemic.

BA, which sacked around 10,000 staff, cancelled another 94 flights yesterday. Rival carrier easyJet, which has also cancelled hundreds of flights in recent weeks, slashed another 70.

Last week the Mail revealed how BA was cutting hundreds of flights to America and the Far East up until September, raising fears other routes face the axe this summer.

It comes after travellers were hit with huge airport queues and hundreds of flight cancellations over the Easter Bank Holiday weekend. They were also left waiting several days to receive luggage due to baggage handler shortages.

Appearing before the Commons transport committee, Mr Shapps was asked by Labour MP Ben Bradshaw: ‘BA is cancelling nearly 100 flights in and out of Heathrow again today, so can you guarantee that the British public are not going to suffer a summer of travel chaos as it did over Easter?’

Mr Shapps replied: ‘You’ll be interested to know that I had Sean Doyle into my office yesterday to ask him exactly this question.

‘He told me they were proactively, in advance now, slimming down their programme in order to be able to meet the demand. He also explained that the problems were actually growing pains in lots of different directions very, very quickly. 

‘So they’re primarily OK with pilots, but those on the ground, the baggage handling side of things for example, have been much harder [to recruit] in a very tight employment market.’

Asked what he thought was the cause of the Easter chaos, he added: ‘Over coronavirus, when we got to the point of perhaps only 10 per cent of usual 2019 traffic, there was the temptation of those involved in aviation to continue to cut back, perhaps they felt they had no alternative, and in the end things have got going a lot faster than they anticipated.’

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10766301/Hundreds-queue-Manchester-airport-dawn.html

Recommended For You