Simon Calder discusses Easter travel chaos
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Airports, after laying off staff due to the pandemic, are still struggling to cope with the sudden rise in passenger numbers as travel-hungry Britons book to jet abroad. Manchester Airport chiefs have said disruptions could continue until the summer. A lack of baggage handlers has meant lost and abandoned luggage has piled up at the airport as lengthy departure queues to get through security are matched by the huge waits for arrivals trying to pick up suitcases.
Gatwick’s baggage handlers revealed they may strike over pay, after rejecting a five percent increase offer, claiming it was “utterly inadequate” to keep up with 6.2 percent inflation.
The P&O Ferries debacle – the sacking of 800 staff and crew – has led to massive passenger and freight tailbacks in Kent. The under-fire operator has now suspended all services to Calais until Good Friday.
Thousands of lorries are stuck at Dover causing yet more mayhem for those trying to cross the Channel – with the meat industry demanding hauliers carrying fresh food be given priority.
Families were stuck in tailbacks after the M20 was gridlocked with a 23-mile, 2,000-strong lorry queue forming, caused by the Operation Brock traffic management system used for traffic problems at the port. Travellers heading to France were told to brace for big delays and urged to pack extra supplies of food and water as they faced 90-minute waits at the ferry port.
All the issues point to a perfect storm for holidaymakers this week.
Manchester Airport has been the UK travel hub most hit by queues. It is urging passengers to arrive three hours before departure to avoid missing their take-offs, as British Airways and easyJet cancelled some weekend flights.
Some passengers at the regional airport were seen vomiting after being stuck in stuffy confined areas while children were reportedly forced to urinate in small plastic bags normally used to carry liquid items on to aircraft.
Steve Blears, 52, from Warrington, who flew out this week, said: “The current situation is unsafe. The overcrowding is a crush disaster waiting to happen.”
Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh said: “The Govern-ment need to begin clearing the huge backlogs in security checks so airport staff can safely begin work.”
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, admitted: “The simple fact is we don’t have the number of staff we need to provide the level of service that our passengers deserve.”
The RAC warned drivers to brace for traffic jam hell this weekend as people get away for their first Easter without any restrictions since the pandemic.
It estimates it will be the busiest Easter on the roads in eight years – with Britain’s motorists set to make 21 million leisure trips.
RAC’s Rod Dennis said: “After two years of relatively quiet Easter bank holidays on the roads, it’s very possible this weekend could turn out to be one of the busiest for leisure journeys for many years.”
On top of traffic jams, it said it would be “the costliest Easter on record” due to rocketing fuel prices.
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