No end in sight to holiday nightmare as airlines ‘resign themselves to summer of chaos’

No end in sight to holiday nightmare: Airlines ‘resign themselves to summer of chaos’ and Heathrow boss warns of 18 MONTHS of misery – as passengers face more mayhem today with huge queues and bag collection in ‘disarray’

Ministers faced growing calls last night to bring in tougher penalties for airlines MPs called for regulator Civil Aviation Authority to be handed greater powers CAA has so far taken no action against airlines despite weeks of cancellationsCaught up in travel chaos? Email me at laurence.dollimore@mailonline.co.uk 

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Fed-up holidaymakers have reported ‘horrendous’ queues and ‘absolute chaos’ at airports this morning, as staffing issues and cancelled flights continue to cause travel misery for thousands of sun-starved Brits hoping for a post-pandemic break.

‘Massive’ queues, hours-long waits at security and cancelled flights were reported at the likes of Manchester and Gatwick, with travellers branding the situation ‘shameful.’  

It comes as ministers were last night urged to bring in tougher penalties for airlines which overbook routes, while the boss of Heathrow warned of 18 months of air disruption. 

And the bedlam is only set to get worse if hundreds of members of the GMB and Unite unions – including check-in and ground operation staff for British Airways – go on strike this summer.

A ballot on industrial action is penned for June 23 – the same week the militant Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) is set to organise three days of national rail strikes which threaten to bring the country to a standstill, adding to fears of a ‘summer of discontent.’ 

Meanwhile, an aviation source told the Times that airlines were ‘resigning themselves’ to the chaos, saying they were ‘baking in cancellations and giving notice where possible’, adding: ‘It’s not going to wash in the long term.’ 

One passenger shared a picture from Manchester Airport’s Terminal 1 this morning, showing a huge check-in queue at 3am, before claiming it took more than two hours to get through security. 

A video also showed a baggage belt in complete ‘disarray’, with luggage overflowing and cases seen strewn across the floor.  

Queues seen at Manchester Airport departures on Wednesday morning, where travellers branded the situation ‘absolute chaos’ 

Long snaking queues at Manchester Airport on Wednesday morning as sun-starved Brits look to get away for a post-pandemic break 

Fed-up holidaymakers report ‘horrendous’ queues and ‘absolute chaos’ at airports this morning and overnight, branding the situation ‘shameful’ and ‘horrendous’

Passengers also reported ‘massive queues’ at Terminal 2, describing the scenes as ‘dreadful’ due to ‘poor ventilation’, while another claimed that at one point just one man was working at passport control, with more than 600 waiting to have their documents checked. 

At London Gatwick, passengers claimed they were left to ‘fend for themselves’ after waiting almost two hours for a Wizzair flight that was cancelled. ‘Shocking doesn’t cover it,’ one fumed on Twitter. 

Another branded the travel hub ‘shameful’ for having just two border staff working ‘the main UK queue’ at around midnight last night. 

It came as ministers were facing growing calls last night to bring in tougher penalties for airlines which overbook flights, as the boss of Heathrow warned of 18 months of air disruption.

MPs called for regulator the Civil Aviation Authority to be handed greater powers to crack down on ‘cowboy’ carriers.

The CAA has so far taken no action against airlines despite weeks of cancellations and thousands of passengers being left stranded abroad in recent days. 

And John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, claimed it ‘will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity’.

He told the Financial Times: ‘What we saw in some airports over the past few weeks is that supply and demand were out of balance… we need to make sure we are planning much better.’

Pictured: Travellers wait in a long queue to pass through the security check at Heathrow on June 1

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, (pictured) claimed it ‘will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity’

MPs called for regulator the Civil Aviation Authority to be handed greater powers to crack down on ‘cowboy’ carriers. Pictured: Heathrow Airport

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps suggested last night that beefing up the CAA’s powers was an option. 

He said: ‘It’s galling to see passengers stranded abroad due to operators selling flights they cannot deliver.

‘I’ve met with the sector to express my concerns… and have made clear this cannot be tolerated. 

‘We have also run a consultation on consumer rights issues, including additional powers for the CAA, and will publish a response on this in due course.’

BA travellers face more chaos as the GMB union is balloting members on a strike over pay. 

Heathrow check-in staff and ground handlers took ten per cent pay cuts in the pandemic and are demanding they be reversed. The ballot closes on June 23, and they could walk out from July.

Nadine Houghton, a GMB officer, told the Times: ‘Staff at Heathrow have been verbally and physically abused by angry passengers after British Airways staff shortages and IT failures nearly brought the airport to a standstill.

‘On top of that, they had their pay slashed during BA’s callous fire and rehire policy. Now they want that money back. Bosses have had it back. Heathrow ground and check in staff want to know why they haven’t had it too.’

EasyJet cancelled another 80 flights yesterday. BA axed a further 118, but it stressed these were removed from its schedules weeks ago with people re-booked on to other planes. Tui is axing six flights a day from Manchester until the end of the month.

EasyJet cancelled another 80 flights yesterday. BA axed a further 118, but it stressed these were removed from its schedules weeks ago with people re-booked on to other planes. pictured: Bristol Airport

MPs said ministers should look at giving the CAA the ability to impose multi-million-pound fines. 

Tory Karl McCartney said ‘firmer action’ is needed, adding: ‘Given the high pay of executives and profit levels, on-the-spot large fines could work.’

Sarah Olney, the Liberal Democrats’ transport spokesman, added: ‘We need urgent action to address this cowboy behaviour from airlines.’

Tim Alderslade, CEO of trade body Airlines UK, said the ‘vast majority’ of flights are ‘operating normally’, adding: ‘We continue to work around the clock to resolve the issues.’

At present, the CAA can’t impose fines for breaches of consumer rights, and beefing up its powers would likely require primary legislation being brought before Parliament.

The industry has called for aviation workers to be added to the shortage occupation list to alleviate the staff shortage, making it easier to recruit ‘cheap’ foreign labour from Europe.

Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, described the situation for those who have had flights cancelled as ‘hideous and disappointing.’ 

She said: ‘About 30 per cent of all calls our members are receiving now are from customers that are reading the headlines, have bookings for July and August in the school holidays, and they are worried.’

It comes as bookings are outnumbering pre-pandemic levels, with the number of Brits jetting off for half-term breaks last week being 21 per cent higher than in 2019. 

According to Bue-Said, summer holiday bookings are currently at 80 per cent of pre-Covid levels.  

She added: ‘The significant surge has created a bottleneck in the system. The industry is now working really hard to make sure that over the next few weeks we are building resilience and scaling up as much as we can from a workforce point of view to meet customer demand and, frankly, give them a much better experience in some cases than they’re experiencing.’

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