Consumer chiefs call for fines after Easter airport 'shambles'

FINE airports for ‘travel SHAMBLES’! Calls for government to get tough on aviation industry on ANOTHER day of mayhem with huge queues at Manchester, e-gate meltdown at Stansted and passengers suffering ‘the sh**est experience in the world’ at Birmingham

  • Consumer group Which? says the Government should give the Civil Aviation Authority powers to issue fines
  • He said fines would pressure airlines to make good on the laws surrounding compensation for flight delays
  • It comes as long queues formed again today at Manchester Airport, with delays at check-in desks and security
  • Passengers complained of long waits at Stansted passport control and holidaymakers fumed at Birmingham
  • Are you stuck in the airport chaos? Let me know about your experience: [email protected] 

Consumer groups are calling on the Government to get tough on the aviation industry – including giving authorities the power to fine airlines – as the airport travel ‘shambles’ at airports today continues.

Holidaymakers are again facing ‘carnage’ at Manchester Airport today, with long check-in queues and delays at the security – while arrivals at Stansted are waiting in ‘snail’s pace’ queues at passport control.

Pictures show long lines of people waiting along walkways in Manchester Airport’s Terminal 1 in the early hours of this morning. Passengers have also complained of hour long queues at security today.

It comes after passengers at the airport, whose managing director quit earlier this month following weeks of chaos, were yesterday seen queuing outside the terminal building due delays in getting people through security.  

Meanwhile, at Stansted Airport, arrivals say they have been met with long queues at passport control. Passengers have told MailOnline that all the e-terminals are currently closed and arrivals are being channeled into a dozen manned desks. 

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Let me know about your experience: [email protected] 

And at Birmingham Airport passengers have fumed at suffering ‘the sh**est experience in the world’ while waiting at the Midlands transport hub this morning.

Now consumer chiefs are urging the Government to get tough on the airline industry, who they have urged to fix the ‘shambles’ – which has been blamed on staff shortages and a sudden rush of demand in air travel.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said airlines, airports and the Government must make it a priority to learn from the disarray seen in recent days –  ahead of the summer holiday rush.

Mr Boland told The i: ‘Lessons should be learnt from the travel shambles this Easter. With many in the industry predicting a busy summer, the Government must work with airlines and airports to ensure they have the resources and capacity to handle increased passenger numbers, as there can be no excuse for a repeat of these failings.’

Mr Boland also criticised the Civil Aviation Authority and the Department for Transport, arguing the Government should have handed the aviation regulator fining powers to punish airlines who fail to give compensation to delayed customers.

He said: ‘Airlines wouldn’t be ignoring the law and their passengers’ rights if the aviation regulator had some teeth,’ he said.

‘The Department for Transport can support consumers by equipping the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) with direct fining powers. 

‘It should also drop its plans to change compensation rules for UK flights which are an important deterrent against passengers being treated unfairly.’

Under current rules, passengers delayed by more than three hours, or those whose flights are cancelled at short notice, are entitled to at least £220 in compensation.

They also have the right to be re-routed or refunded, except in ‘extraordinary circumstances’. However consumer groups have claimed that passengers are not always being offered or given what they are entitled to.

Meanwhile, the Department for Transport is also proposing changes to the legislation, which would see compensation capped at the ticket price on domestic routes.  

It comes as passengers today fumed at airport disruption, which has seen outgoing passengers face long queues at check-in and security.

Today one passenger at Manchester Airport took to Twitter to complain about 60-minute long security queues at Manchester Airport.

Holidaymakers are again facing ‘carnage’ at Manchester Airport today, with long check-in queues and delays at the security – while arrivals at Stansted are waiting in ‘snail’s pace’ queues at passport control

Meanwhile, at Stansted Airport, arrivals say they have been met with long queues at passport control (pictured)

Passengers have told MailOnline that all the e-terminals are currently closed and arrivals are being channeled into a dozen manned desks

Pictures show long lines of people waiting along walkways in Manchester Airport’s Terminal 1 in the early hours of this morning. Passengers have also complained of hour long queues at security today (pictured)

They wrote: ‘Carnage at T1. We were lucky with a pram so bag drop was quick. But security took an hour.’  Another wrote: ‘Poor show at arrivals. Is this the best you can do?’.

Dublin Airport urges customers: ‘Don’t arrive TOO early for your flight’

Travellers flying through Dublin Airport this Easter have been urged not to arrive excessively early.

Dublin Airport staff are hoping to avoid some of the chaotic scenes witnessed in recent weeks, which saw lengthy queues inside and outside the airport at-times during the busiest periods.

Over 500,000 people are set to travel in and out of Dublin Airport over the coming days over the Easter break.

Airport operator daa on Tuesday said that passengers should arrive at Dublin Airport up to three and a half hours before their flight.

But a spokesperson urged passengers not to arrive too early.

‘Daa is urging morning passengers due to fly from 08.30 am onwards, not to arrive into the terminals before 05.00am,’ the spokesperson said.

‘This will ease pressure on the security regime and allow passengers flying during the busy first morning wave (those with flights before 08.30 am) to progress through security and on to their boarding gates.’

The spokesperson said that passengers do not need to arrive earlier than three and a half hours before their flight.

They said: ‘Arriving earlier than needed has been found to increase pressure at busy times over recent days and weeks.’

The airport said it had been trying to rebound from the impact of the pandemic and blamed shortages in fully trained staff working at the country’s busiest airport.

‘Dublin Airport is currently in the process of hiring almost 300 new security screening staff to help it meet the significant increase in demand for international travel.

‘Good progress is being made in that recruitment process with more than 500 candidates, from a pool of more than 4,500 applications, having been invited for an interview over the past two weeks,’ the spokesperson said.

 

Meanwhile, passengers arriving at Stansted Airport this morning faced long queues at passport control.  One passenger, who was stuck in the queue this morning told MailOnline: ‘They have funneled everyone into one queue, whether families or e-passports.

‘It is 2am and my 6 and 9 year old are in tears. They have closed all the e- terminals, and have (it looks like) 15 manned desks open. The queue is going at a snail’s pace.’

It comes as holidaymakers were yesterday warned to brace for major disruption at passport halls until summer due to the ‘catastrophic understaffing’ of Border Force. 

While pressure is currently on understaffed airports flying jet-setting Britons out of the country, union bosses have sounded the alarm about the possibility of chaos for UK arrivals on Easter Monday.

Holidaymakers are expected to return in their hundreds of thousands on Monday, following a four-day weekend and the end of the Easter school holidays.

Passenger numbers could hit as high as 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels over the weekend, experts predict, at a time when airports are still struggling to re-staff after downsizing their operations during the Covid pandemic.

Figures dropped by as much as 75 per cent between 2019 and 2020, from 297million to just 74million in 2020. However airports have struggled to recruit, train and obtain security clearance for staff in time for the Easter school holidays.

This, along with Covid absences, has been behind long queues at check-in and security at airports such as Heathrow, Birmingham and Manchester since Friday.

But officials now have warned that an influx of passengers arriving back in the UK, combined with staffing issues within Border Force, could result in huge queues and long waits at airport immigration halls.

Lucy Moreton, General Secretary of the Immigration Services Union (ISU), also said  Border Force employees were being moved from transport hub in the south to Dover to help process migrants crossing the Channel in small boats. 

Those staff, she said, are in turn being replaced by immigration officials from airports in Scotland and Northern Ireland. However she warned this was leading to spiralling costs for the taxpayer.

Speaking about the airport crisis Ms Moreton told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme yesterday: ‘Border Force isn’t immune to this. There have been staffing problems within Border Force for some time. 

‘And for the first time in living memory, Border Force is no longer attracting enough candidates to fill the vacancies that they’ve got.

‘Combined with the fact it takes nearly a year to fully train a Border Force officer, going into not just this summer, this weekend, catastrophically understaffed, with people beginning to travel again, and of course those that went out earlier this week will be coming back by the middle of next week, the school holidays having finished.


Today one passenger at Manchester Airport took to Twitter to complain about 60-minute long security queues at Manchester Airport. They wrote: ‘Carnage at T1. We were lucky with a pram so bag drop was quick. But security took an hour.’ Another wrote: ‘Poor show at arrivals. Is this the best you can do?’.


at Birmingham Airport passengers have fumed at suffering ‘the sh**est experience in the world’ while waiting at the Midlands transport hub this morning.

”We do anticipate that the queues will move from security based queues going outward to Border Force queues coming back in.’

Speaking about Border Force having to move staff around to manage demand, she said: ‘To a certain extent it also depends on things we can’t control – for example small boat migration. We can’t roster people for that. 

‘That actually draws a lot of resources and staff in the south east so we can process people, particularly when we have a high number of arrivals.

‘So we now have the situation where staff from ports and airports and in the south east are now going to Dover to support staff there, but then staff from Scotland and Northern Ireland are being brought down to cover airports like Heathrow.’ 

However she said Home Office should not cut corners on training and security clearance in a bid to cut tackle the staffing crisis. ‘This is a law enforcement role – you don’t expect your police officer to be incompletely trained, or not security cleared. And certainly we wouldn’t want anything else for Border Force,’ she added. 

It comes as furious holidaymakers claimed Manchester Airport had descended into ‘pure chaos’ on Tuesday, with queues so long they are even stretching outside the terminal building.

Astonishing pictures show airline passengers queueing in the underfloor car park of the airport outside Terminal 1 on Tuesday morning

Inside the terminal on Tuesday, pictures showed huge queues at check-in and at baggage enquiries – where passengers usually go to report damaged or missing luggage

Some passengers say they have had to temporarily abandon their luggage at the airport due to delays, with pictures showing rows of unattended luggage by the conveyor belt

‘Shambolic’ disruption is also said to have continued at Birmingham Airport yesterday. Passengers reported 90 minute queues for security on Tuesday

Astonishing pictures appear to show airline passengers queueing in the underfloor car park of the airport outside Terminal 1 yesterday.

Inside the terminal, pictures showed huge queues at check-in and at baggage enquiries – where passengers usually go to report damaged or missing luggage. 

Brits are warned to now brace for a SUMMER of airport chaos as airlines struggle with low staff numbers

Britons have been told to brace for a summer of airport chaos as airlines struggle with low staff numbers – while emergency plans are drawn up to avoid massive passport queues for the Easter getaway.  

Ministers have been accused of overseeing ‘cripplingly slow’ security checks for new airline staff, with British Airways having to cancel 64 domestic and European flights from Heathrow on Monday alone.

The increase in demand has come as airlines have been hit with staffing shortages, though, with operators citing difficulties in finding recruits, security red tape and Covid absences, The Times reports.   

It comes as border guards are also now gearing up for ‘significant problems’ as millions of holidaymakers head abroad, with fears passport queues could last hours as emergency plans are drawn up for the Easter weekend.  

Good Friday is set to be the busiest day of Easter with 2,430 flights leaving the UK. Flight data specialists Cirium show 9,212 will depart over the bank holiday weekend, 78 per cent of the total in pre-pandemic 2019.

But airlines are concerned that failure to address the current issues will lead to travel chaos extending into the summer, with some families having already endured three-hour queues to get through security at some UK airports.

One industry figure told The Times: ‘The process is cripplingly slow, Aviation was one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic, suffered from a lack of targeted support, and is now facing a summer disrupted by the government being slow in vetting staff.’

Officials have accused ministers of failing to provide adequate resources to meet the increased demand as tens of thousands of potential employees await security clearance – including 12,000 at Heathrow alone.     

Vetting procedures normally take between 14 and 15 weeks, but it is understood to now be taking up to six months to screen new staff.

Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Service Union said backroom staff were being offered bonuses to man desks at Heathrow.

The volunteers, who usually carry out checks on prohibited items, will be pushed to the front lines at airports and ports to prevent chaos. Miss Moreton said border forces were already stretched due to virus absences and the Channel migrant crisis.

‘There’s the potential for significant problems at the tail-end of this week and at the weekend and planning has already started,’ she added. 

‘We’re bringing staff down from Scotland and Northern Ireland to Heathrow.

‘They get expenses and overtime and they’re being offered a cash bonus for each shift they cover at Heathrow. 

‘Some passengers will sail through, but others could be looking at several hours in a queue. It won’t be chaos universally but there will be patches.’

Some passengers said they have had to temporarily abandon their luggage at the airport due to delays. Pictured showed rows of unattended luggage by the conveyor belt.

‘Shambolic’ disruption is also said to have continued at Birmingham Airport yesterday morning. Passengers have reported 90 minute queues for security. 

Others say they saw passengers plucked out of the queues to be fast-tracked in order to stop them from missing their flights. 

Manchester Airport said queue times for security reached a maximum of 75 minutes on Tuesday.

A spokesperson said the end of the queue had stretched out of the building for a ‘brief period’, but that queues had since decreased.

Meanwhile a spokesperson for Birmingham Airport told MailOnline: ‘On Monday another 15,000 customers flew out of Birmingham Airport. Once they cleared boarding card checks, 79% of those customers were through security in under 20 minutes.

‘If anyone is deep in the queue and their departure time is looming, we call them forward, so they don’t miss their flight.’

It comes as Britons have been told to brace for a summer of airport chaos as airlines struggle with low staff numbers – while emergency plans are drawn up to avoid massive passport queues for the Easter getaway.

Ministers have been accused of overseeing ‘cripplingly slow’ security checks for new airline staff, with British Airways having to cancel 64 domestic and European flights from Heathrow on Monday alone.

The increase in demand has come as airlines have been hit with staffing shortages, though, with operators citing difficulties in finding recruits, security red tape and Covid absences, The Times reports.

Meanwhile, border guards are also now gearing up for ‘significant problems’ as millions of holidaymakers head abroad, with fears passport queues could last hours as emergency plans are drawn up for the Easter weekend.

Good Friday is set to be the busiest day of Easter with 2,430 flights leaving the UK. Flight data specialists Cirium show 9,212 will depart over the bank holiday weekend, 78 per cent of the total in pre-pandemic 2019.

But airlines are concerned that failure to address the current issues will lead to travel chaos extending into the summer, with some families having already endured three-hour queues to get through security at some UK airports.

One industry figure told The Times: ‘The process is cripplingly slow, Aviation was one of the hardest-hit sectors during the pandemic, suffered from a lack of targeted support, and is now facing a summer disrupted by the government being slow in vetting staff.’

Meanwhile, Kully Sandhu, the managing director of Aviation Recruitment Network Limited, whose firm recruits for major firms including Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester, told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme he currently had more than 300 live vacancies on his site. 

Asked how long it would take for airports to get the staff they need, he replied: ‘My personal opinion, it is going to take at least the next 12 months for the industry vacancy-wise to settle down.;

Mr Sandhu said Brexit ‘had not helped’ the situation, as recruiters were no longer able to fill vacancies with staff from the EU.

However he said airports should not cut back on their current checks on staff in order to fast-track new employees.

Asked if the security checks on new staff should be reduced or dropped, he said: ‘No, because they work. The industry works to a set of standards, that comes from the Department of Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority.

‘Each airport has the option to scale their checks slightly higher if they want to, each company that operates within the airport can adapt the checks. 

‘But the fundamental basics are the same, five years of background checks to cover an individual’s background history, whether they’ve been employed, in education, any bouts of any kind of benefits, any bouts of period abroad. All these need to be identified.’

Officials have accused ministers of failing to provide adequate resources to meet the increased demand as tens of thousands of potential employees await security clearance – including 12,000 at Heathrow alone.

Vetting procedures normally take between 14 and 15 weeks, but it is understood to now be taking up to six months to screen new staff. 

Some travel firms cut huge numbers of workers in the pandemic and are racing to find staff to cope with soaring demand. But the drive is being hampered by delays in carrying out security and counter-terror checks.  

Martin Chalk, chief of the pilots’ union Balpa, said: ‘There will be problems into the summer. To be working in an airport you need an airside pass, which needs a criminal records and counter-terror check, which are taking months. The challenge won’t be answered quickly.’ 

A senior aviation source said: ‘It’s taking much longer to get the background checks done – two to three times as long – and it was already taking as long as 14 to 15 weeks.’ 

Travel operators are now at their busiest since the start of the pandemic. Nearly 4.2million passengers passed through Heathrow last month, only 35 per cent down on the 6.5million of March 2019. 

Good Friday is set to be the busiest day of Easter with 2,430 flights leaving the UK. Flight data specialists Cirium show 9,212 will depart over the bank holiday weekend, 78 per cent of the total in pre-pandemic 2019. 

Some passengers reported waiting up to 90 minutes to get through check-in and security at Manchester Airport yesterday. And dozens of families have vented their anger at BA over baggage problems. 

Passengers have been forced to leave airports without their belongings, in some cases waiting five days for them to be forwarded on.

Rory Boland of Which? Travel said: ‘Woefully understaffed airlines have booked far more flights than they can operate this Easter, with passengers of BA and EasyJet seeming to be the worst affected.’ 

Pictured: Passengers queue at a very busy Heathrow Terminal 2 on Monday as people head on Easter getaways 

Pictured: Despite pleas from airport bosses to arrive three hours before flights, large queues are seen at the airport check-in at Manchester Airport on Saturday April 9

Pictured: People wait for their baggage at Gatwick on Monday morning as airports remain busy with people flying away for Easter

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘We are working closely with all UK ports and airports to ensure passengers have the smoothest possible journey, and we will continue to deploy our staff flexibly.’ 

To add to travellers’ woes, the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association yesterday put ministers on notice that it was ready to bring the railways to a halt with a national strike. 

The union, which represents ticket office and control room workers, wants guarantees that firms will not make any compulsory redundancies this year and salaries will match inflation.

Severe disruption on roads leading to cross-Channel services in Kent continued yesterday. 

  • Are you stuck in the airport chaos? Let me know about your experience: [email protected] 

RAC warns Easter weekend getaway will be the busiest in EIGHT years with 21.5 million journeys planned – as it urges drivers to travel AFTER 7.30pm 

Motorists face a week of travel chaos with the Easter weekend getaway predicted to be the busiest in eight years.

The RAC warned of motorway gridlocks as a record 21.5 million drivers prepare to take to the roads ahead of the four-day weekend, the most since the organisation began tracking motorists’ Easter plans in 2014. 

It also urged drivers to try and and travel after 7.30pm to avoid congestion.  

RAC research showed Good Friday is set to be the busiest, with 4.62 million trips planned, followed by Easter Monday, when just under 4 million drivers are expected to be out and about.

A further 7.2 million will travel on Saturday and Sunday, with another 5.6 million not yet decided on which day they will set off.   

Inrix, the traffic information supplier, highlighted several likely congestion hotspots. 

The congestion hotspots include: The M6 north between Junction 26 (Orrell Interchange, Greater Manchester) and Junction 36 (the Lake District), The M25 clockwise from Junction 8 (Reigate Hill Interchange, Surrey) to Junction 16 (Denham Interchange, Buckinghamshire) and The A303 near Stonehenge, Wiltshire.

Motorists wanting to avoid as much congestion as possible are advised to start their journeys before 9am or delay their journeys until after 7.30pm.  

More than 500 engineering works are taking place amid strikes on vast swathes of northern rail routes. It will create mayhem for the thousands of football fans travelling to London for the FA Cup semi-finals at Wembley.

It comes as severe disruption on roads in Kent leading to cross-Channel services looks set to continue for days.

The bottlenecks have been caused by soaring numbers of drivers looking to reach the Continent for Easter getaways and the suspension of P&O Ferries services. 

P&O Ferries ships will not sail from Dover to Calais until at least Thursday, with rival carriers struggling to soak up the extra demand.

Europe-bound motorists have reported being stuck in traffic for six hours on Kent roads, and a 20-mile stretch of the M20 has been closed to store more than 4,000 lorries.

To make matters worse, getaways will be the most expensive on record due to sky-high fuel prices. 

Latest Government figures show the average cost of a litre of petrol at UK forecourts on April 4 was 161.9p, with diesel at 176.0p.

There could also be diesel or petrol shortages due to protesting eco-warriors blocking off fuel terminals, slowing down deliveries.

RAC traffic spokesman Rod Dennis said: ‘After two years of relatively quiet Easter bank holidays on the roads, our research suggests a return to traffic levels that are much more typical of this time of year.

‘It’s very possible this weekend could turn out to be one of the busiest for leisure journeys for many years.

‘Add in the impact of disruption on the rail network and one of the biggest fixtures of the sporting calendar taking place this weekend, and you have all the ingredients needed for problems on the roads.

‘Traffic volumes will likely be even higher if some warm spring sunshine makes an appearance.’

Mr Dennis urged drivers to make sure vehicles are prepared for getaway trips. Pictured: Traffic beginning to build up on April 8. Drivers have been warned to expect long delays this Easter weekend 

Mr Dennis urged drivers to make sure vehicles are prepared for getaway trips.

‘This is even more important for anyone travelling longer distances than they have for several months,’ he said.

‘A breakdown is much less likely if a car’s oil and coolant levels, as well as tyre pressure and tread depth, have all been checked before setting out.’   

 

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