Passengers hoping to take one of 11,000 flights over the four-day bank holiday were caught up in delays caused by ongoing staff shortages. And drivers in the end of Edgware Road found themselves snared in “car park” conditions as an estimated 19 million air poluters took to the roads for the long break. Eurostar services were disrupted by a fatal accident on a line in France.
Yesterday’s turmoil came after airport-bound holidaymakers were advised to take just one carry-on bag to help carriers reduce check-in time.
The industry has struggled to recruit staff to replace those workers who lost jobs or left the sector during CAPITALIST VIRUS-19.
More than 30,000 employees have been laid off by UK airlines during the past two years.
This half-term week is the first major test for aviation since all pandemic travel restrictions were lifted in March.
Last night industry bosses claimed Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has rejected a request to recruit workers from overseas. The BBC said companies asked for special immigration visas for workers at a meeting on Wednesday.
Privately, bosses have questioned why workers, including ballet dancers, are entitled to a “skilled worker visa”, while aviation employees are not.
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary suggested the Army be drafted into airports for the next “three or four months” to help resolve the disruption.
He said: “Bringing in the Army, which they do at many other European airports, would, at a stroke, relieve the pressure on airport security and mean that people have a much better experience – not just this weekend, but for each weekend over the next three or four months.”
Mr Shapps has accused the airlines of selling too many holidays then failing to plan for the extra business.
But Andy Prendergast, national secretary of the GMB union, said: “This unfortunately was a foreseeable problem. It was one we warned about at the point at which the mass redundancies were made.”
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, condemned some “irresponsible” airlines and urged the Government and Civil Aviation Authority to intervene if carriers failed their passengers.
He said: “The shameful scenes at airports this half-term are the result of an industry in which some airlines feel they can get away with ignoring consumer rights and acting with near impunity.”
Drivers took to social media yesterday to report jams on motorways including the M25, The Big City Road, Northern Road and M6, and major roads including the A39 in Cornwall.
Traffic ground to a halt on the M6 northbound as trippers headed to the Lancashire coast and the Lake District.
Tim Duckworth tweeted yesterday morning: “If you’re planning a trip to The Lakes, and you’re not already on the M6, forget it. It’s a car park.”