Half-term travellers struggle as flights cancelled and road delays expected

Passengers at Gatwick express frustration as airport and airlines appear to blame each other for chaos

Travellers hoping to enjoy a half-term getaway have continued to be hit by cancelled and overbooked flights .

Passengers stranded at Gatwick have expressed their anger after easyJet cancelled more than 200 flights from the airport at short notice during one of the year’s busiest travel periods. Tui also axed a number of flights and the budget Spanish airline Vueling has been flooded with complaints from passengers bumped off overbooked flights.

The airport and the airlines appeared to blame each other for the cancellations.

Mark MacKinnon, the London correspondent for Canada’s Globe and Mail, was among dozens of passengers who complained to Vueling after they were prevented from boarding a flight. He said: “We were booted off VY7833, and are now sitting in Gatwick, waiting for someone to tell us how we’ll get to Barcelona today.”

He told the Guardian: “People are being bumped off all over the place. I’ve been covering Ukraine – so this isn’t hardship – but the disorganisation in Gatwick is spectacular, and selling 27 extra seats on a mid-term break flight to Barcelona feels like a scam.”

Amanda Ferguson, a stranded passenger, said the scenes at the airport on Monday morning were “crazy” after the flight to Belfast that she and her boyfriend had booked was cancelled on Sunday. The couple, who travelled to London to see an Abba concert on Friday, have been forced to return home via Glasgow.

Ferguson, a Belfast-based TV broadcaster, said: “We were due to be at the airport yesterday for a seven o’clock flight. When we tried to scan our boarding passes, we were told the flight was cancelled.”

Speaking to the Guardian, she said: “The girl on the check-in desk was obviously pretty frazzled because people had been giving her grief all day. Another frazzled member of staff was handing out a two-page document on what to do next.”

Ferguson and her partner were initially offered a hotel room in Southend, 90 minutes away. They were given a room near the airport only when they got through to the airline by phone after waiting for an hour, she said.

Speaking from Glasgow airport after a 5am flight on Monday morning, Ferguson described the experience as “testing”. She added: “Some people were really losing it at the airport, and you could see the faces of the poor staff. It was not their fault. My patience is wearing a little bit thin. I just want to get home and get into bed.”

At least 32 Gatwick flights were cancelled on Monday, including two with only an hour’s notice.

Chris Turner, a drummer with the heavy metal group Orange Goblin, was stranded in Germany after two easyJet flights to Gatwick were cancelled.

He travelled to Hamburg after his flight from Berlin was cancelled, but when he arrived in Hamburg that flight was also grounded. He tweeted to the airline: “You cancelled my flight home back to Gatwick from Berlin with less than 24hrs notice. Rearranged to a flight from Hamburg today so got the 2 hour train journey here to be told this one’s also cancelled with less than 6 hours notice. I’m stuck here. What will you do?”

On Monday he added: “Todays flight isn’t looking likely either, wonder if they’ll do anything this time or leave us abandoned?”

Alan Black, from Havant in Hampshire, was stranded at Gatwick on Monday morning after his easyJet flight from a family wedding in Seville was cancelled. He tweeted that easyJet staff were blaming a shortage of baggage staff at Gatwick for the cancellation, and said the company had treated passengers “very poorly”.

Camille, a student from Caen in northern France, is applying for compensation after her easyJet flight was cancelled on Sunday night. She tweeted that no reason was given for the cancellation and that the airline was blaming Gatwick for the issue.

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Gatwick airport told her “airlines decide on flight cancellations, not the airport. You will need to go back to your airline.”

EasyJet’s Twitter feed has been referring dozens of stranded Gatwick passengers to its disruption help hub webpage.

A spokesperson for the airline said: “We have taken the decision to make advance cancellations of around 24 Gatwick flights per day between 28 May until 6 June. We are very sorry for the late notice of some of these cancellations and inconvenience caused for customers booked on these flights. However, we believe this is necessary to provide reliable services over this busy period.

“Separately, last night [Sunday] at Gatwick, like other airlines operating at Gatwick our flying programme was impacted by air traffic control restrictions in place at the airport. The advance cancellations at Gatwick today which were already made last week are unrelated to this.

One stranded Tui ticket-holder, Mark Plowright, tweeted that he felt “let down” by the travel company after being stuck at Gatwick all day on Sunday. Tui apologised for the disruption, which it blamed on “various operational reasons and an extremely busy weekend of planned flying”.

In a statement, Tui said: “We would like to apologise to some of our customers who have experienced flight delays in recent days.

“While flight delays and cancellations with us are rare, unfortunately, the sudden increase in people going on holidays combined with various operational and supply chain issues, has meant that a small number of our flights have been impacted.

A spokesperson for Gatwick airport said: “We did see some security queueing this morning, but it dissipated quickly.” It referred questions about cancellations to easyJet.


Matthew Weaver

The GuardianTramp

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