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05th Apr 2022

Airport chaos so bad police and army could be called in as problems could last months

April Curtin

Passengers and staff have been reduced to tears at UK airports as queues and cancellations continue

Chaotic scenes continued to play out at airports across the UK on Tuesday, with queues so bad the army could be called in and warnings that problems may last months.

Covid staff absences are causing severe delays and cancellations for a number of airlines, as thousands of Brits attempt to go away this Easter. Airlines and airports are also struggling to recruit staff quickly enough to meet passenger demand after thousands of jobs were lost in the pandemic.

Over 200 flights were cancelled by easyJet over the weekend, with the airline experiencing double their normal level of staff absences due to covid. Both easyJet and British Airways cancelled 62 flights each on Monday, and easyJet is likely to cancel 60 more to and from the UK on Tuesday.

easyJet said it has decided to cancel more flights in advance “in order to give customers notice”.

The airline said: “We are contacting customers directly and providing them with their options. We expect to make similar levels of pre-emptive cancellations over the coming days, due to the ongoing high level of sickness.”

Police and the fire and rescue service may be drafted in to help tackle the chaos at Manchester Airport, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said on Tuesday.

He is expecting to meet with airport management to discuss the chaos, MEN reports.

Even after the Easter demand eases, the situation doesn’t look likely to get much better, with John Strickland, director of transport consultancy JLS Consulting, telling the BBC: “I think certainly the next month or two are going to be very difficult.”

For those who do have flights going ahead, the experience isn’t pleasant, with claims it is “dangerous” and people will get hurt.

Travellers have faced hours of queueing, with reports of people jumping over barriers and abandoning their luggage.

Passengers have even been trying to swap their flights at Manchester Airport to avoid missing them, BBC reports.

One passenger told the broadcaster they actually missed their flights from the airport on Friday, with “customers and staff in tears”.

In other airports across the country, the situation doesn’t appear to be much better. Some of those travelling from Heathrow Airport have faced three-hour queues over the past few days, with many flights delayed and cancelled.

Passengers posting on social media have also reported hours of queueing at London Gatwick and London City airports, as well as at Birmingham.

One passenger at Gatwick Tweeted: “3 hrs to check in and running to catch a flight – fuming at shocking staffing, training and queues – people you need to leave about 4hrs for this shambles to get through without additional stress.”

Heathrow Airport and Manchester Airport management said the covid checks required by destination countries were adding to waiting times, as well as high passenger volumes. But there were also reports of staff shortages and problems with the e-gate passport checkpoints at Heathrow, as travellers took to social media to air their frustrations.

Manchester Airport has asked passengers to arrive at the earliest time their airline allows for the next few weeks.

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