Summer holidays in jeopardy for next two years because of hideous airport scenes

The boss of Heathrow believes it could take the sector 12 to 18 months to get back to full capacity (Picture: PA/Getty)

There are growing fears that the summer holidays could be ruined by the ongoing chaos at UK airports.

Travel agents are said to be inundated with phone calls from customers worried by the ‘hideous’ scenes around the country.

And some experts are concerned that the issues could last up to 18 months – potentially putting next year’s summer getaways in doubt.

It comes as thousands more air passengers saw their travel plans thrown into disarray on Tuesday, as the sector again struggled to cope with staff shortages.

Meanwhile, hundreds of British Airways check-in and ground staff 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 yet more delays and cancellations at the UK’s busiest airport during the summer holiday period.

Strikes in Italy will add to the problems today – with the dispute threatening to last throughout the summer.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, which represents independent travel agents, said call handlers are receiving ‘a significant number’ inquiries from concerned customers.

Bristol Airport Tuesday morning passenger queues and frustration
Queues in Bristol Airport yesterday (Picture: LT1Media)

Passengers queue for the check in desk at Heathrow Terminal 5 airport in London, Britain, June 1, 2022.REUTERS/Hannah McKay
Heathrow Airport’s boss fears it could take 18 months for the sector to recover its full capacity (Picture: Reuters)

She explained: ‘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 branded the situation ‘hideous and disappointing’ for passengers whose flights are being cancelled.

Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye told airlines and airports to ‘plan much better’ if they want to avoid further problems this summer.

But he did not appear optimistic, adding: ‘I think it will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity,’ The Mirror reported.

Yet Ms Bue-Said claimed travellers should be reassured that ‘in the vast majority of cases flights are departing and arriving’.

She added: ‘We’re trying to give a bit of perspective.’

Tourists walk at Magaluf Beach in Calvia, on the Balearic Island of Mallorca, on June 28, 2021. - British holidaymakers heading to the Balearic Islands will need to show a negative PCR test or proof of vaccination due to a rise in UK Covid infections, Spain said, reversing a free-entry policy. (Photo by JAIME REINA / AFP) (Photo by JAIME REINA/AFP via Getty Images)
Holidays next summer may also be in doubt (Picture: AFP)

EasyJet axed at least 35 flights on Tuesday, with Gatwick the worst affected airport.

Hungarian carrier Wizz Air scrapped 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.

In recent months, many passengers whose flights have gone ahead reported being stuck in airport queues for several hours.

Ms Bue-Said revealed that the number of people who jetted off during last week’s half-term school holiday was 21% higher than in 2019, while summer holiday bookings are at around 80% of normal.

Following the Covid crisis, she said that represents a ‘huge surge in demand’ compared with the previous two years when the industry was ‘shut down’.

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.’

Diego Garcia Rodriguez, 32, a Spanish national who lives in Brighton, said passengers at Gatwick Airport on Tuesday were left in tears due to last-minute cancellations.

He said: ‘I’m flying from Gatwick to Barcelona and I was at the airport three hours before but almost didn’t make it to board.

‘The flight hasn’t been delayed so far but 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.’

In Italy, UK holidaymakers are facing further disruption after two unions called for a nationwide crew strike.

Pilots and flight attendants from airlines including Ryanair, easyJet and Crewlink are set to strike for four hours from 10am until 2pm, according to Italian media.

 Unions say the strike is over pay disputes, non-payment of sick days, summer leave and a ‘lack of water and meals for the crew’ – and warned that if an agreement is not reached, ‘this will be only the first of a series of protest actions that will make the summer “hot”.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at [email protected].

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