Passengers have complained of “frustrating” queues leading outside airport terminals that have forced many to miss flights and lose hundreds of pounds. Airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months.
The situation has worsened due to the rise in demand sparked by the half-term school holiday and the four-day Platinum Jubilee weekend. The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.
London’s Gatwick Airport said on Friday it is reducing the number of daily flights during its busy summer period to help tackle staffing issues. Nicole Venglovicova, 31, missed three separate flights to Belfast from Heathrow and is concerned she will not get a refund of approximately £500 she has spent trying to sort air travel.
Ms Venglovicova, a freelance video producer from London, told the PA news agency: “I had a meltdown, I was crying outside the airport out of stress. I arrived at the airport for my morning flight and Flybe told me the queue is huge so I need to run. When I finally got to security, my boarding pass didn’t work… the gate was still open at this point.”
As Ms Venglovicova went back to the front desk to explain the issues with her boarding pass, she said staff “started arguing with security”. By the time she was able to get back to her gate, it was closed and nobody was there, she claims.
She said: “The problem I had was that they should have told me that I will miss my flight because of the queue and I would (have) immediately booked a later flight to go on. But instead they send me (back) to security check and make me miss my flight and I had to go through arrivals and look for my luggage which they didn’t even put onto the airplane.”
Retrieving her luggage and going back through security took Ms Venglovicova a further two hours which she meant she missed another two flights she could have caught to Belfast. She said: “I thought I (could get the) afternoon one and then I saw that the queue is going all the way outside to the car park and I couldn’t see the end of it.
“Then I had a meltdown and just went home. There is no point. Domestic flight to Belfast and I need to go to the airport when? Eight hours earlier?”
Mick Lyon, from Liverpool, said his time at Manchester Airport on Friday was “very frustrating”. Travelling home from Paris, the 39-year-old said passengers were queueing outside the terminal as passport control barriers were closed down.
He said: “I travel for work and fly most weeks and Manchester Airport is certainly the worst experience at any airport. Literally needed someone to open up the barriers so people could queue orderly… it could have easily been avoided by opening up the barriers.”
Airport to limit number of flights to tackle problem
Pressure is mounting on airports and airlines to handle the influx of those going abroad on holiday. Gatwick Airport is planning to limit its number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August compared with a reported 900 daily flights during the same time period in previous years.
It comes after a busy Jubilee holiday week, which saw more than 150 flights being cancelled across the UK on the eve of the Jubilee.
Downing Street welcomed Gatwick reducing flights “so they can realistically deliver over the summer”. A No 10 spokesman said: “We want everybody to be able to travel freely and easily, which is why we continue to encourage industry to step up their recruitment so they can put enough flights for families who are looking forward to well-deserved holidays after the pandemic.”
Business minister Paul Scully earlier suggested that one solution to airport chaos is for staff to work longer hours if they want to. He told Sky News: “We want to work really closely with the airports and the airlines to make sure that they are doing everything they can and see what more we can do.
“There is a record number of vacancies – 1.3 million vacancies across the country in all manner of sectors – but there are also people who have recalibrated what they want to do when they were on furlough. We want to make sure that those people that are not necessarily working full time, through Universal Credit we can get them back in to work to be more productive, if that suits them, and obviously match them up with the sectors where there are those vacancies.”
When asked whether this meant people working longer hours, he said: “I’m not talking about going out forcing people to do anything, but we just want to make sure that they’re matched up properly so that it’s just that those people who can work longer – that want to work longer – can do.”