Huge airport queues spark fears of holiday meltdown as ministers are told to ‘get a grip’ before schools break up in two weeks
- Yet more airport chaos is expected over coming weeks as summer holidays near
- Schools in England and Wales are set to break up, spawning a travel stampede
- Labour yesterday demanded Transport Secretary Grant Shapps ‘get a grip fast’
- And unions vowed to push back against plans to relax overnight flight rules
Fears of a summer meltdown at Britain’s airports surged yesterday as passengers queued in car parks and outside terminal buildings.
A holiday stampede is expected in a little over a fortnight when most schools in England and Wales break up.
Labour yesterday demanded Transport Secretary Grant Shapps ‘get a grip fast’.
It came as easyJet’s chief operating officer resigned following fury at the budget airline’s cancellation of thousands of flights.
And unions said they would push back against plans to relax overnight flight rules, leading to staff working ‘antisocial hours’.
Security queues at Heathrow Terminal 2 were seen stretching out the doors yesterday morning
One passenger at Manchester Airport yesterday (pictured) showed queues into a car park
One passenger waiting at Manchester Airport yesterday tweeted a photo of a queue to enter Terminal 3 that stretched into the multi-storey car park.
A second complained of ‘carnage’ while a third added: ‘Today is the worst ever. Actually standing in the car park to wait for security. Utter shambles.’
Travellers also posted images of long lines at Heathrow, with one saying the queue for security ‘starts outside the terminal’. He added: ‘Avoid at all costs. Total mess.’
Problems at Heathrow are set to worsen when the school holidays begin and check-in and ground staff are expected to strike.
But insiders denied security waits yesterday were excessive.
Life was no better at Stansted yesterday, where passengers arrived extra early for their flights
A passenger at Manchester claimed the queue yesterday stretched into a multi-storey car park
At London City Airport – which has largely escaped the worst of the disruption – one passenger said it had taken ‘three hours to get through security at 6am’.
Unions say no to more night flights as they oppose Government’s bid to solve airports crisis
Union bosses have vowed to oppose using night flights to ease travel chaos, it was reported last night.
In yet another blow for holidaymakers, unions said they would push back against plans to relax overnight flight rules that would see staff working ‘anti-social hours’.
Airlines are limited to the number of flights that can run between 11.30pm and 6am at major airports, which often leads to flights being cancelled if they are delayed.
Amid mounting pressure to solve the travel chaos, the Department for Transport said it will consider suspending the rules to ease disruption.
But last night unions vowed to oppose the plans over fears staff could be made to work long hours during the night.
A GMB union source told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It’s not fair to force our members to work nights to pick up the slack for their mistakes.’
It comes as holidaymakers are now facing a summer of travel chaos in Europe as countries across the continent grapple with staff shortages and strikes.
Huw Merriman, chairman of the transport select committee warned that the plan could ‘annoy the heck out of residents’ but said he was open to finding out more about lifting the night ban.
He added: ‘I don’t see what good that would do and can see what damage that would do. I don’t know if crew will want to fly at two in the morning.’
He added: ‘Totally out of control, what a mess.’
Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, who sits on the Commons transport committee, said: ‘If airports are already in meltdown now things will only get worse once the schools break for summer holidays. It’s going to be complete chaos if they do not get a grip – and get a grip fast.’
The boss of Heathrow has warned of up to 18 months of disruption as airlines struggle to recruit and train staff.
The Department for Transport (DfT) is considering temporarily suspending rules on night flights.
Airlines are currently restricted in how many flights they can run between 11.30pm and 6am at major airports, which often leads to cancellations in case of delays.
But a GMB union source told the Daily Telegraph: ‘It’s not fair to force our members to work nights to pick up the slack for their mistakes.’ Responding to passenger complaints, London City Airport insisted the ‘average journey time’ through the airport yesterday was 45 minutes.
A spokesman blamed staff sickness and handling passengers rebooked from other airports.
Manchester Airport apologised for ‘any inconvenience caused’ but insisted ‘the vast majority of people’ passed through security in less than 30 minutes yesterday.
Heathrow insisted the airport was ‘busy but flowing’ yesterday, saying that while queues may have looked ‘daunting’, this was due to the layout of buildings. A spokesman said the ‘vast majority’ of passengers got through security in less than 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, easyJet’s chief operating officer Peter Bellew resigned yesterday amid growing pressure on the airline to reduce flight disruption. It has axed thousands of flights in recent months – including many just hours before they were due to depart.
Airlines have until Friday to take advantage of a government ‘amnesty’ allowing them to change airport schedules without facing a potential penalty.
Mr Shapps is trying to avoid a summer repeat of the mayhem over the Easter and Platinum Jubilee holidays.
The Government has ordered vetting centres carrying out checks on new recruits to prioritise airport staff. The DfT said counter-terrorist and accreditation checks were now being completed in record time.
A passenger at Heathrow Airport posted this picture of huge crowds at 4am yesterday
Queues in the car park at Manchester Airport yesterday as passengers tried to head on holiday
A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘This is a busy period as people make the most of the ability to travel for the first summer in three years. We are doing everything we can to give everyone a good journey and for the vast majority of passengers this is the experience they are having.’
A DfT spokesman said it was ‘working closely with the aviation sector to help holidaymakers enjoy the summer getaways they deserve’.
He added: ‘It’s now on airlines to commit to running the flights they’ve promised and for airports and ground handlers to ensure they have the staff needed to enable these flights.’
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