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Passengers at Manchester and Heathrow Airports were facing long queues today as first of the Easter holidays got under way, while the traffic jams continued to blight the Port of Dover.
The airport blamed the disruption on Covid checks required by destination countries and ‘high passenger volumes’.
But there were also reports of staff shortages and problems with the e-gate passport checkpoints, as travellers took to social media to air their frustrations.
Some said they had waited hours to check in and take off as the airport confirmed ‘congestion’ was affecting Terminal 2.
Other travellers said several automatic e-gates – which are staffed by Border Force – used to process passengers, were not operating properly. The Home Office has been contacted for comment.
One passenger reported having sat on a plane for two hours waiting for take-off and said the reason given was staff shortage issues. The travel chaos comes at the start of the Easter break, with an increase in holidaymakers understood to be driving up passenger numbers.
Staff shortages are also said to have contributed to delays, with some travellers sat on planes for up to an hour waiting to take off.
On Twitter, Ali posted: ‘Manchester Airport not ideal as it’s so busy. Well done as it’s organised and amazing staff are smiling through abuse and announcements etc… Gutted about our fast track passes and not being able to use them.’
Manchester Airport apologised for its services today after staff shortages led to hours of delays for passengers checking in
Large queues were reported at Manchester Airport this morning as the first April weekend got off to an awkward start
Actress Amanda Abbington tweeted there was no one to process her baggage claim at Manchester Airport
A Manchester Airport spokesperson admitted the service was short-staffed and said: ‘We apologise to passengers whose experience at Manchester Airport has fallen short of the standards they expected.
‘As we recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, our whole industry is facing staff shortages and recruitment challenges.
‘As a result we are advising customers that security queues may be longer than usual, and we encourage them to arrive at the earliest time recommended by their airline.
‘Due to the security checks and training associated with these roles, it takes time to for people to be able to start work in our operation.
Another passenger reported waits of over three hours at Manchester Airport yesterday
The situation at Manchester Airport was described as chaotic although staff were praised for their professionalism in the face of numerous complaints
‘As we recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, our whole industry is facing staff shortages and recruitment challenges,’ said Manchester Airport
‘That is why we are exploring a number of short-term measures to deliver the best possible service we can, such as the use of agency staff and different ways in which existing colleagues can support our operation.
‘We are aware similar challenges are being faced by airlines and third parties, such as baggage handling agents, operating on our site. Together, we are working hard to deliver the best possible service we can in the circumstances, and to resolve these issues as quickly as possible.’
Terminal Two of Heathrow was said by one traveller to be at ‘near capacity’ with passengers admitted just three hours before flight time.
But it is understood the terminal is free-flowing again after some restrictions this morning due to increased passenger numbers in the Easter holiday.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: ‘Due to high passenger volumes and the Covid documentation checks still required by many end destinations, Terminal 2 departures has experienced some congestion today.
‘Our teams are supporting our airline partners to get passengers away on their journeys as quickly as possible and we apologise for any inconvenience this has caused.’
Nick Gale, a teacher from Kent, described six mile traffic queues at the Port of Dover caused by disruption to cross-Channel ferries and bad weather.
The situation at the Port of Dover has improved slightly but delays are likely to continue beyond the weekend, the boss of the British Ports Association has said.
The area has been plunged into traffic chaos, with gridlocked roads near the port caused by disruption to cross-Channel ferries and bad weather.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Sunday, Richard Ballantyne said: ‘It is a bit better today, we understand. ‘Yesterday we were up to nine-hour queues outside the port. Traffic measures are in place, which… are working fairly well and it enables other people around east Kent and businesses, residents etc to move around freely.
‘But (it is) not a good position if you’re stuck in a vehicle for six to eight hours.’ The suspension of P&O services, with three of the company’s vessels at berth in Dover, has been partly blamed for long queues in the area.
Adverse weather in the Channel and congestion caused by tourists travelling to Kent for an Easter getaway are also said to be contributing to the jams.
Drivers have been forced to wait for hours to board ferries after measures were triggered to control the movement of HGVs in the area. Under Operation Brock, lorries heading to Dover are allowed to use one side of the M20 while all other traffic is restricted to a contraflow system on the opposite side.
Terminal two of Heathrow was said to be at full capacity, with passenger unable to enter until three hours before their flight
The cross-Channel situation was dealt a further blow when a DFDS ferry, Dover Seaways, hit a berth in high winds on Thursday. DFDS said in a statement the vessel is being inspected ahead of repairs and it is expected to return to service on Monday or Tuesday.
Despite the slight improvement, Mr Ballantyne said authorities are predicting delays will extend into the working week.
He said: ‘East Kent and the Kent police services… and the very well established operations team at the Port of Dover are predicting this is going to continue for another couple of days, but it is something we just quite don’t know how long it’s going to go on for.’
Nick Gale, a teacher from Kent travelling with his family to Calais for a trip to Amsterdam, said they had been stuck for ‘over two hours’ on Saturday and missed the ferry they were booked on.
He said: ‘No communication at all from port staff. Policeman said it was basically the perfect storm, less ferries… plus bad weather and (the) P&O issue.’
Mr Gale criticised the ‘awful’ communication around Dover, saying non-freight travellers were left in the dark about what to do. ‘I think around Dover it’s awful, there is no communication for what non-freight customers (are) to do.
‘We’re local to the area so knew a couple of ways to beat the huge queues but it’s literally not moving,’ he said.
‘We’ve got no food and an eight-year-old in the back moaning.’
Suspended P&O Ferry services are said to have contributed to long delays at the Port of Dover throughout the weekend, along with two DFDS ferries out of action
‘This has been caused by a number of factors, including severe weather in the Channel.’
Despite the overnight delays, waiting times from Dover to Calais are reported to be six hours – down from 14 hours yesterday.
An emergency air-and-sea rescue operation was underway in the English Channel last night after a plane with two people on board crashed after taking off in the UK.
The Piper PA-28 was in a group of aircraft which was heading to the northern France resort of Le Touquet on Saturday morning.
‘It crashed into British waters for an unknown reason,’ said a spokesman for the French emergency services.
‘British Coastguard launched an operation supported by French aircraft and boats including the Abeille-Languedoc (Languedoc Bee) tug, which has been chartered by the French Navy.’