Travel chaos

Airlines cancel flights as airports face staff shortages

airport queues
Airports are dealing with long queues

Easter holiday travellers face disruption as airlines cancel flights and airports struggle with a shortage of staff.

EasyJet cancelled 222 flights over the weekend and a further 62 on Monday, blaming higher than usual levels of staff absence because of Covid.

About 60 British Airways flights to and from Heathrow airport were cancelled today. Fifty were cancelled in advance last week but 10 flights were late notice overnight cancellations, also because of Covid sickness among staff.

There were also delays at ports, while Eurotunnel warned of three hour delays as a result of a breakdown.

EasyJet said the employment of standby crew was not enough to avoid the last minute changes to its schedules.

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“As a result of the current high rates of Covid infections across Europe, like all businesses, easyJet is experiencing higher than usual levels of employee sickness,” an EasyJet spokesman said.

“Unfortunately it has been necessary to make some additional cancellations for today and tomorrow. We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause.”

He said affected customers had been contacted and could rebook on alternative flights or receive a voucher or refund.

Airports have also seen staff shortages at time when demand for travel is picking up following the end of travel restrictions.

Passengers at Manchester Airport have faced long queues for check-in and security, while Edinburgh Airport last week warned the travelling public to expect queues and disruption over the peak summer period as it prepares for a full service for the first time in more than two years.

The number of passengers travelling through Edinburgh airport in 2020 and 2021 fell dramatically, from nearly 15 million to three million, with the airport reduced to a virtual standstill due to Covid restrictions.

Gordon Dewar, chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, said: “It is inevitable there will be some queues and disruption as the recovery begins and we take the first steps to normality.”

The airport is predicting numbers will more than treble in one year and that surge in growth and the tough recruitment markets are two of the factors involved. Other contributing issues are differing COVID entry requirements, security preparation and passengers returning to travel for the first time since the pandemic.

A spokesman for Manchester Airport said: “Our whole industry is facing staff shortages and recruitment challenges at present, after the most damaging two years in its history.

“The removal of all travel restrictions after two years, coupled with the start of the summer travel season, has seen a rapid increase in passenger numbers, which is putting an enormous strain on our operation.”

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There were also long queues to enter Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport on Sunday morning. The airport blamed Covid checks required by destination countries and “high passenger volumes”.

But there were also reports of staff shortages and problems with the e-gate passport checks, with some travellers saying they had waited hours to take off.

“Our teams are supporting our airline partners to get passengers away on their journeys as quickly as possible and we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused,” a spokesperson said.

Gatwick Airport said it had seen a busy weekend as the Easter holidays kicked off. It said it has not seen big queues in its security area but that some check-in areas run by individual airlines were very busy.

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