Holidaymakers planning Easter breaks face huge delays as Government fails to stop airport queues, P&O collapse and motorway gridlock causing misery for families
The getaway chaos threatening to wreck thousands of long-awaited Easter holidays could drag on until the summer, it was warned last night.
Holidaymakers’ week of misery showed no sign of letting up today with long delays for ferries and major disruption at many UK airports. And travel industry chiefs warned the misery could continue for months as they struggle with staff shortages and Covid-related absences.
The disruption has come as a huge blow to families heading for overseas Easter breaks for the first time since pandemic restrictions ended.
A 23-mile southbound stretch of the M20 remained closed today as 4,000 lorries waited to make the Channel crossing at Dover. The truck queues are usually around 2,000-strong at worst.
The delays were caused by surging traffic as families headed for Calais and beyond amid the continued suspension of P&O Ferries, after the firm sacked 800 workers without notice last month.
Richard Ballantyne, of the British Port Authority, said it would take several days to clear the backlog and travelers should arrive prepared. He said: “Unfortunately, the advice for many is to bring food and water and prepare for long waits.”
Airlines have also been hit by staff absences with a total of more than 100 flights canceled in the past week.
Labor urged the Government to intervene and prevent further delays, while Manchester airport advised passengers to arrive three hours before departure to avoid missing flights.
Airport bosses said long waiting times at security could remain a feature for months – with some passengers forced to queue for 90 minutes.
And there is little sign of an end to the ferry chaos sparked by the P&O scandal. Labor transport spokeswoman Louise Haigh accused the Government of being “missing in action” as the problems mount.
She added: “The Government should be holding emergency talks with ferry operators and Eurotunnel to increase capacity following P&O’s shameful action.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he was “very concerned” about the situation and called on travel operators to “redouble their efforts” to make sure people can get away.
British Airways says the majority of its flights are going ahead – but in a precautionary move it had slightly backed its schedule until the end of May.
The airline recommended long-haul passengers arrive three hours before their flight and short-haul passengers two hours ahead of take-off.
Budget carrier EasyJet said it was continuing to operate most of its 1,500 daily flights over the weekend. But Which? travel editor Rory Boland says some airlines have left themselves “woefully understaffed” to cope with the rebound in travel following two years of Covid crushing demand.
He said: “It’s unfair that individuals and families are made to pay the price with lost holidays and money wasted on travel and other expenses at airports.” Unions, meanwhile, say soaring sickness among border officials mean Britons returning from Easter breaks will face long delays when they reach these shores.
Lucy Moreton of the Immigration Services Union, which represents Border Force staff, said: “The increased rate of absence and other operational pressures we’re facing mean it’s a perfect storm.”
Travelers are already facing the most expensive Easter getaway on record thanks to the rising price of fuel.
The RAC said garages were fueling the cost of living crisis by not passing on savings from falling wholesale prices.
It claimed some could reduce petrol by 8p to a liter and diesel by 5p. Last Easter, petrol averaged 125p with diesel typically 129p. The average price now stands at an eye-watering 162p for petrol and 177p for diesel.
Holidaymakers are also being stung by rip-off debit and credit card charges when they do finally reach their destinations.
Debit card withdrawals cost as much as £11.88 for £250 while some credit cards charge £14.95, website Moneyfacts said.
The Department for Transport today blamed P&O Ferries for contributing to the delays, saying the police and local council leaders were working to ease disruption in Kent.
P&O hopes to resume Dover to Calais services this week, subject to inspection by the coastguard.