Tens of thousands of passengers hoping to return to the UK at the end of the main half-term week face flight cancellations and long delays.
Britain’s biggest budget airline, easyJet, has so far cancelled at least 42 flights to and from Gatwick, affecting an estimated 7,000 passengers.
While most travellers were given several days’ warning and were able to rebook on other services, 14 easyJet departures from Gatwick airport have so far been cancelled on the morning. They include flights to Nice, Seville and Milan, and the return legs, plus three of the four departures to Amsterdam.
Leanne Gorin told The Independent: “My daughter and her friends’ flight to Nice from Gatwick was cancelled with half-an-hour’s notice. Now being sent to the South Terminal desk. Beyond chaos.”
While the cancelling airline must provide an alternative departure on the same day, including paying for flights on rival airlines if necessary, availability is scarce and prices are high.
Both easyJet flights to and from Seville for Saturday have now been cancelled.
Many of the easyJet flights that are operating are late. Departures to Alicante, Amsterdam, Gibraltar, Menorca and Valencia left two hours or more behind schedule. The airline told passengers air-traffic control restrictions were responsible.
Luton airport is operating normally – except for short-notice cancellations on easyJet to and from Belfast International, Edinburgh and Geneva.
At Bristol airport, easyJet cancelled flights to Berlin, Biarritz, Nice and Prague at a few hours’ notice. With the inbound legs included, at least 1,200 passengers are believed to be affected.
A spokesperson for the carrier said: “easyJet will operate around 1 700 flights carrying around a quarter of a million customers each day over the bank holiday weekend, with a small proportion cancelled in advance either last week or overnight and informed of their options to rebook or receive a refund.
“Airlines continue to operate in a challenging environment including with air traffic control restrictions operating today at London Gatwick and issues with ground operations at several airports including at Amsterdam where the airport has requested airlines to cancel some flying today.
“As a result a small proportion of additional flights could be subject to disruption today.
“We fully understand the inconvenience this will have caused to our customers and we are very sorry for this.”
British Airways and Wizz Air have also cancelled flights to and from Gatwick. A BA departure from Dalaman in Turkey on Friday afternoon was grounded due to a technical problem, though it later flew back to London.
Some Wizz Air passengers who had flown out from Doncaster Sheffield airport for extended trips have learnt that the airline is closing the South Yorkshire base from next Friday. The airline blames the airport saying “it is unable to guarantee the terms of its commercial agreement with Wizz Air”.
A spokesperson for the airline said: “It is with deep regret that we have had to take the difficult but responsible decision to cancel a large number of Wizz Air flights to/from Doncaster Sheffield airport from 10 June 2022.
“Passengers with bookings affected by this will be contacted via email today with advice on all their options, which include: rebooking, a full refund, or 120 per cent of the original fare in airline credit.”
Wizz Air hopes to redeploy staff at other UK bases, including Luton and Gatwick, to cover gaps in rosters.
On the ferries, outbound traffic at Dover is flowing smoothly, but with thousands of families returning from France congestion is expected at Calais.
Irish Ferries is warning passengers: “Expect possible queues and delays at Border Control and check in.” DFDS Ferries tweeted: “We are aware of the congestion on the roads in around Calais leading to the port.
“Do not worry – once you reach us we will accommodate you on the next available departure.”
In the UK, most trains are operating normally – though conductors working for TransPennine Express are striking on Saturday and Sunday as part of a long-running dispute. The train operator said: “We’re advising customers not to travel, but to plan carefully if journeys are necessary.”
Tube passengers in London are being advised not to travel on Monday 6 June due to a strike by members of the RMT union who work for London Underground.