Mass airport queues nationwide due to Easter surge and staff shortages

Airports across the country are facing major delays endangering countless travel plans.

Birmingham International is in its second day of ‘mayhem’ while Manchester airport has been described as a ‘complete nightmare’.

Hours of flight delays and enormous security queues have been reported at Manchester, with videos emerging of passengers vying for space in the line through security.

The situation has been described as dangerous. Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, passenger Emma Broadhurst said her flight had been cancelled due to a technical fault after three and a half hours of queueing through the airport and five hours waiting for the plane to take off.

"We were moved like cattle to the baggage reclaim, where we faced another two-hour queue to go through passport control, despite never leaving the tarmac, and a further hour for our bags”.

At Heathrow, passengers have complained of big queues with many of the e-gates out of action.

Yesterday, the west London airport’s Terminal 2 was said to be almost ‘at capacity’.

Why are there delays at the airports?

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The major delays at the airports are being caused by a combination of factors, including severe staff shortages and a sharp rise in the number of people looking to go on holiday after Covid restrictions have ended.

A spokesperson 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."

Reports have been coming in of people in fast-track queues not moving and missing their flights.

Airports are facing criticism for not being prepared for the demand for travel this Easter, with larger numbers of passengers looking to get away in the school holidays after what has been a quiet two years for airports.

Sharon Graham, Unite union’s general secretary, said: “We warned the aviation sector repeatedly not to use the cover of Covid to slash jobs and pay. This would render it unable to meet demand when passengers returned.”

When is the airport disruption likely to end?

At the time of writing, there is no clear answer to when the queues are likely to get shorter, with concerns surfacing that the disruption could last for months.

Travel bosses have warned that the problem might not go away overnight.

Martin Chalk, General Secretary of pilots union BALPA, said: "The chaos witnessed at British airports may well be repeated throughout the summer because airlines, laden with debt… have not yet rehired enough staff.”

Airports are, however, scrambling to hire more staff in response to the rush.

A Manchester Airport spokesperson said:"We are doing all we can to recruit the staff we need to meet this demand, but this is taking time due to the lengthy vetting and training processes involved."

One man at Manchester reportedly told the BBC: "They’ve got rid of everyone [staff] and no one wants to come back".

It is a similar story at Heathrow. The airport said in a statement: “We are aware of a longer queues that is impacting passengers. Airlines will be working hard to process passengers in a swift manner. Please make sure you’re following airline guidance. We are sorry for any inconvenience.”

“We’re aware of an issue impacting the e-gates, which are staffed and operated by Border Force. This issue is impacting a number of ports of entry, and our teams are working closely with Border Force to resolve this as quickly as possible.”

However, one concerning tweet from the official Heathrow account replied to a complaint with: “Hi there. We cannot estimate queue times at Border Force ahead of journey dates, the inconvenience of which we do apologise for. Our teams continue to work diligently to assist all passengers as efficiently as possible.”

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