Thousands of Britons are trapped at airports while easyJet cancels 80 more flights

Holidaymakers in the UK have faced even more chaos in travel as easyJet canceled 80 more flights on Sunday, Eurostar trains experienced more delays and roads began to get clogged with returning drivers. mid-term and getaway weekend getaways.

Tens of thousands of British travelers are estimated to be stranded at European airports after nearly 200 flight cancellations over the weekend.

When the four-day platinum jubilee weekend came to an end, along with the half-term holiday for most schools in England and Wales, easyJet said it had canceled about 80 flights “due to the difficult current operating environment”, affecting about 12,000 people.

A handful of British Airways and Wizz Air flights to Gatwick were also canceled on Sunday and some 3,000 passengers on their way to Luton were diverted to other airports after a temporary power outage affected air traffic control systems. .

A problem with the Eurostar’s electricity supply near Paris caused significant delays and cancellations in all its services to and from the French capital and long queues outside the St Pancras station terminal. , in central London. Eurostar urged passengers to postpone their journey if it was not essential.

St Pancras International Station was also packed as travelers returned at the end of the mid-term and the jubilee holiday. Photo: Dinendra Haria / LNP

Train service across the canal has been in trouble all week, with a computer crash and a death on the track in northern France resulting in delayed and canceled services.

On the roads, many of the 19 million drivers the AA had predicted would get behind the wheel over the four-day weekend began returning home, straining major routes.

In London, travel problems will continue over the next week, with 4,000 workers at the tube station leaving 24 hours on Monday after talks to prevent a strike collapse. Londoners have been told to avoid taking the Tube between Monday morning and Tuesday at 8am.

Sunday’s cancellations of easyJet mainly affected Gatwick Airport. They arrive after 25 departures and 22 arrivals from downtown West Sussex were canceled on Saturday, affecting at least 7,000 passengers.

“We are very sorry and fully understand the disruption this will have caused to our customers,” the airline said. “We are focused on getting them to their destination as soon as possible.” EasyJet said it had extended customer service hours and was helping those affected find accommodation at the hotel when needed.

Flights from Barcelona, ​​Nice, Madrid, Belfast, Geneva, Corfu, Faro and Glasgow were among those affected.

It ends a disastrous week for UK airports, with the mid-term getaway marked by long queues, delayed take-offs and hundreds of flight cancellations, including more than 180 from the holiday company Tui. Staff shortages, computer problems and bad weather across Europe have been blamed for restrictions on air traffic control.

Airlines and airports are struggling to meet rising demand after all Covid international travel restrictions were lifted in the UK on 18 March.

Carriers have laid off more than 30,000 employees in the UK over the past two years when air travel came to a halt during blockades. Gatwick has 40% fewer directly hired staff than before the pandemic, while easyJet has lost 10% of its workers.

Earlier this week, Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary called for military personnel to be added to help ease the disruption at airports. Airlines have also called on the government to relax its immigration rules for European citizens to help them hire staff.

However, Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps rejected both suggestions on Sunday. Speaking on the BBC’s Sunday Morning program, he ruled out sending the armed forces to help prosecute holidaymakers and said more immigration was not the answer. “In fact, they have exactly the same problems in Europe. If you look at the problems they have in Amsterdam this weekend, there are problems all over Europe. “

Several centers around the world have also been affected by staff shortages and delays this week, including Dublin, Paris, LA, Toronto and Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. On Saturday, the Dutch domestic airline KLM canceled all flights from other parts of Europe to Schiphol to clear a passenger traffic jam. He said he was looking to solve the problems by hiring more staff and paying higher salaries.

On Sunday, long queues had eased at most airports in the UK, with Heathrow, Manchester and Stansted saying they had not seen any major problems, but there is concern that the problems could be repeated over the holidays. summer when demand grows again.

Shapps said it was the responsibility of airports and airlines, not the government, to solve the underlying problems by hiring and training more staff.

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Airlines UK, the industry body, suggested that the state could play a more important role: “The way to solve this is through the working group announced last week by the government, where we can sit down with the ministers to consider the art of the possible in terms of practical measures that can make a difference, especially in recruitment, as we enter the summer period.

“We need to get closer and keep more people in the sector. It has been done before – the truck sector has had similar problems recently – and we will not leave any stone unturned to return the sector to normal as soon as possible “.

Shapps also said it was imperative that airlines not fly flights, which had caused some passengers to cancel all their vacations, and suggested that passengers should receive an automatic refund for canceled foreign vacations. similar to the train delay reimbursement scheme.

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