Holidaymakers are facing flight cancellations and the prospect of road delays as mid-term begins and the UK prepares for an extended bank holiday weekend.
The June half-year traditionally heralds the start of the summer tourist season, and this year comes amid a rebound in consumer demand for leisure breaks following the easing of UK Covid travel restrictions.
At the start of the busiest time for travel since the pandemic, the weekend saw travelers stuck in hour-long queues at several airports and a string of flights canceled by airlines including easyJet and Tui.
At Manchester Airport, where earlier in the spring many passengers missed their flights after waiting hours to pass through security due to a staff shortage, new problems have arisen.
The airport, which like much of the aviation industry has struggled to recruit staff after making layoffs during the pandemic, warned of its Official Twitter that there were delays in check-in and baggage claim.
The airport tweeted that it was “aware of the challenges faced by a number of airlines and handling agents” and, apologizing for the situation, urged passengers to contact their airline.
Matthew Ashton, vice president of design at toymaker Lego, was one of the passengers to share the troubles at Manchester Airport on Sunday. He tweeted that this Ryanair flight had been “sitting on the runway again for about an hour”, unable to take off, as baggage from the previous flight had not yet been unloaded.
Dublin Airport also warned passengers on Sunday that they risk missing their flights due to “long queues” inside the terminal for check-in, baggage drop-off and security. About 50,000 passengers were expected to leave the airport during the day.
Airline passengers who expected to take off with travel company Tui over the weekend have also complained about the late cancellation of several flights due to take off from UK airports.
The travel agency said it canceled a “small number” of flights between Friday and Sunday, at airports including Gatwick, Birmingham and Bristol, and blamed “operational and supply chain issues”.
Tui’s cancellations came after easyJet cut more than 200 flights due to depart from London Gatwick over a 10-day period from May 28 to June 6, disrupting the travel plans of tens of thousands of holidaymakers.
An easyJet spokesman apologized for the “inconvenience” caused to passengers, but said the move was “necessary to provide reliable services during this busy time”.
The series of last-minute flight cancellations will cause “enormous disruption and distress”, according to Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, who added that this was “not an isolated event”.
Boland said the consumer group had “heard from passengers complaining that the airline is not respecting their consumer rights, as well as not communicating effectively with those who are stuck overseas and don’t know when they could go home.”
Who? asks the aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, to have the power to impose direct fines on airlines that do not respect consumer law.
On the roads, motorists have been warned they will face delays and disruption as an estimated 5million more people will use their cars for journeys over the long weekend.
Drivers plan 19.5 million leisure trips during the extended break, according to research by RAC Breakdown, as people visit family and friends or go out for the day.
RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Having the public holidays coincide with the end of mid-term in many places has the potential to put additional strain on the road network, it is therefore important to plan a trip carefully to beat the worst of all queues.”
However, some travel disruptions are expected to last beyond the holiday celebrations. A railway union leader said he “sees no way out of the strikes” that could hit the railways from mid-June, ahead of the expected walkout by railway union members, of the sea and transport (RMT) about jobs and wages.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge program on Sunday that a strike was “very, very likely” unless the government ordered companies to “change the line”.
The prospect of a railway strike raises fears of the closure of large parts of the rail network, which could impact the supply of petrol and diesel and the delivery of goods to stores.