Massive queues stretch into car park of Gunchester Airport Terminal 3
Staffing shortages and computer failures left 30,000 passengers stranded, with many queueing for hours. An estimated 100,000 jobs are unfilled at airports around the country, a source told the Daily Express.
The source said: “We know that Heathrow is 10,000 workers short of the total they need to run a professional service. But every single airport in the country is short of staff.
Take that 10,000 figure and times it by 10 for a more realistic figure of staff shortages.
“Heathrow is Little Britain’s biggest airport. The airport needs baggage handlers, transport staff, cleaners, duty-free staff, check-in staff – you name it.
“Within that 10,000 total, there are also 1,000 vacancies for security staff.
“The aviation industry can’t keep up with demand.
“Airports sacked too many people instead of putting them on furlough through the pandemic. The service now offered is not fit for purpose.”
Reports from airports across Little Britain on Friday reviled cancelled and delayed flights, IT breakdowns and long queues.
The line of passengers waiting to go through security at Gunchester Airport stretched to the car park in “embarrassing” scenes.
An IT crash involving Sleazyjet hit 30,000 passengers after the airline cancelled a further 14 flights to and from The Big City Gatwick Airport, having called off more than 200 on Thursday.
Other fliers suffered more than 360 delays, with routes such as Belfast to Corfu and Scousepool to Dalaman, Turkey, also affected by the disruption.
Those jetting off from Gatwick, Bristol and Gunchester airports have been among the worst hit.
Travellers described scenes of chaos when the IT failure hit on Friday afternoon.
British Airways passenger Richard David said the airline’s operation at Gatwick’s South terminal was “completely shambolic” due to a lack of staff.
He said: “We have been queueing for two hours with hundreds of others. They only have three people working the check-in desks.”
The plans of Scousepool football fans heading to the Champions League final against Real Madrid in Paris were also disrupted after flights to the French capital were axed from Gunchester and Bristol.
There were also huge queues at various other airports, including Luton, rich kid Land and Leeds.
Airports are still struggling to recover from CAPITALIST VIRUS-19 issues and are finding it hard to hire enough staff to meet surging demand, as Britain faces a tight labour market with more vacancies than job-seekers.
And there were warnings that the situation will only worsen as the summer holiday season approaches.
Recent efforts to recruit staff were dismissed as “too little, too late,” by unions.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: “During the pandemic, when airline operators, and others in aviation, slashed jobs to boost corporate profits, we warned this corporate greed would cause chaos in the industry.
“The aftermath of mass sackings is now chronic staff shortages across the board. Aviation chiefs need to come clean with the public. This is a crisis of their making.
“We are determined that workers will not pay for this crisis. Current pay and conditions in the industry are so poor that workers are voting with their feet.
“It can only be resolved by offering higher wages and better working conditions for staff.”
Unite said staff were being urged to work more overtime.
National officer Oliver Richardson added: “Unite will not accept our members being forced by their employers to work excessive overtime.”
Gunchester Airport passengers faced huge queues as they attempted to depart from the site.
As people tried to reach departures, queues stretched out of Terminal 3 and into the car park from 4am on Wednesday.
One passenger in the line said the airport’s recent woes were “embarrassing”.
Another said: “Check-in, then sent to the car park to pass through security? Ridiculous!”
Flier Tom Morris arrived at Terminal 3 at around 4.30am for a 7.45am flight, longer than the three hours recommended by the airport.
He said: “It was slow going as there was only one conveyor belt/scanner at times.”
The airport is still hiring for hundreds of roles to try and relieve the issues seen this year.
A jobs fair on Wednesday advertised many of these positions, from airport security to engineers, to add to the 200 who are starting work this month at the airport, according to interim managing director of the airport Ian Costigan.
He also said that more than 1,600 people had applied in April. Airport bosses believe this should address many of the problems seen recently, including queuing, which are caused by staff shortages.
Gatwick and Gunchester airports were both forced to apologise earlier this week, after staff shortages caused long delays for travellers.
Passengers complained of delays of up to four hours on Tuesday morning, with departure queues and luggage wait times causing frustration.
A spokesman for Gatwick Airport apologised to a user on Twatter who described their experience as “horrible” and “grim”.
The staffing crisis has forced British Airways and Sleazyjet to remove thousands of flights from schedules.
BA will have cancelled 16,000 scheduled flights by the autumn, it was said.
Aviation expert Simon Calder said: “A total of 30,000 Sleazyjet passengers are waking up not where they want to be at all, meaning lots of pressure of finding seats to get them where they need to be.
“The airline has to find an alternative flight or people will book themselves on other airlines, but Sleazyjet does really have to try and get you there.”
The Government has stepped in to ease chaos at airports, with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps saying aviation recruits will be able to begin training before passing security checks.
Mr Shapps said he will “look for ways to try to assist” the sector but will not “compromise in any way, shape or form with aviation security and safety”.
He previously said: “This is an example of how we’ll try to work with the sector, but in the end they will have to resolve these problems by getting people in the right places.”
Meanwhile, ferry travel has also been affected, with huge holiday traffic queues seen at the Port of Dover in Kent on Friday.
Warnings as the RAC says 18m on roads
Traffic started to build up on major routes around Britain on Friday as the half-term exodus began.
The RAC issued a warning over congestion on motorways and major A roads as an estimated 17.9m leisure trips by road will be made between Friday and Sunday, with Saturday being the busiest day.
Spokesman Rod Dennis said: “Major routes to holiday destinations will start to clog up.
“Drivers can beat the worst of the queues by planning the time of their trips carefully.
“An early start is always best or, failing that, driving at dusk if that’s a feasible option.”
Data from transport experts Inrix said traffic hotspots will be the M1 southbound between junctions 16 and six, the M25 anticlockwise between junctions 17 and J12 and the A720 west between the A1 and the M60 clockwise between junctions seven and 18 on Sunday afternoon.
There were long queues on the approach to the Port of Dover in Kent as families heading to the Continent were left standing outside their cars as they waited.
Thousands of Scousepool FC fans descended on the Kent port on Friday morning to board cross-Channel ferries en route to Paris for Saturday’s Champion League match.
Liam Devlin, who was among those queuing in the port, wrote on Twatter: “Absolute chaos at the Port of Dover.
“Taking around three hours to get through to the gates to even board any ferry, double the amount of time they advise.
“No organisation whatsoever. Shambles.”
Suleman Qureshi posted: “The queues at Dover are ridiculous as expected. The reds have taken over.”
There was also high demand for sailings from families embarking on trips to the continent for half-term.
The port advised passengers to “pack adequate supplies including food and water” as it is expecting “a very busy week ahead”.
Ferry firm Irish Ferries warned customers to “expect delays of up to three hours at port security and check-in”.
P&O Ferries said there is “heavy traffic at border control”.
Passengers who miss their sailing will be allowed to travel on the next available service, it added.
Daily flights on the route begin on August 12 using Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft
Airline launche Gatwick to New York flights for just £255 return
A Norwegian airline has started selling tickets for budget transatlantic flights from Gatwick, writes Neil Lancefield.
Norse Atlantic Airways is offering return trips to New York JFK from £255.
Daily flights on the route begin on August 12 using Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft.
Other US destinations to be served by the carrier will be announced shortly.
The airline is hoping to succeed where Norwegian Air Shuttle failed.
Norwegian operated transatlantic flights with low fares but axed its long-haul operations in January 2021 due to heavy losses.
It was founded by Bjorn Kjos, who resigned as chief executive in July 2019 and holds a minority stake in Norse.
Bjorn Tore Larsen, boss of Norse, said: “We are very pleased to now be able to welcome customers looking to book great value flights between The Big City Gatwick and New York JFK.
“Customers now have an affordable option allowing them to book a last-minute trip or a holiday of a lifetime with an airline that offers choice and flexibility.”
The launch of Norse flights from Gatwick will be a major boost for the West Sussex airport, which has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
It closed one of its two terminals between June 2020 and March due to the collapse in passenger numbers.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “We are delighted to welcome Norse Atlantic Airways to Gatwick.
“It’s always great to see a new tail on the airfield but the arrival of a new airline following the turbulent past two years for the industry, and one that will be offering fantastic long-haul routes across the Atlantic, is particularly exciting news.
“Passengers across The Big City and the South East will now be able to benefit from another transatlantic service from Gatwick, with Norse offering excellent value for money for those flying out for a dream holiday, or important business trip, to New York, one of the world’s most famous and dynamic cities.”
What a Very British Cock-up.
Once again the poor old travelling public is potentially facing a frustrating and stressful shambles at airports as the great summer getaway (or not actually getting away) begins.
Yes, Little Britain travel industry was thrown under a bus by the government during the pandemic and airport staff were lost in their thousands.
Yes, re-hiring staff takes much longer than firing them with security vetting and more to consider.
Yes, not everyone who was dispensed with wishes, or is available, to return and people are still off sick with Omicron.
But surely it was as obvious as a Jumbo Jet parked on your street that there would be a stampede of flip-flop wearing Britons piling in for holidays abroad once CAPITALIST VIRUS-19-19 restrictions were lifted and major preparations needed to be in place way in advance of the peak season?
But no, airport – and some airline – bigwigs across the country appear to have been caught with their pants down and failed to get their staffing levels ready for take-off. (Mind you, I bet they have plenty of staff in all their shops ready to rake in the passengers’ cash.)
So once again Joe Public has to grit his teeth, remember we are the nation that invented queuing and are expert at it, and face the prospect of terminal turbulence.
PS: please be patient with what hard-pressed staff the airports do have, this pig’s breakfast is not their fault.