While Manchester has seen the most severe check-in and security delays, more passengers at Heathrow have had their flights unceremoniously cancelled. British Airways scrapped 50 flights to and from the airport on April 12, with a further 17 canceled on April 13, once again citing staff shortages. Major queues have been reported by passengers at check-in and security, though experiences seem to vary wildly.
Certainly not immune from the chaos, Gatwick has also seen a string of canceled flights. On April 12, EasyJet canceled more than 30 services from the airport; nearly all of its departures on April 13 were delayed. Last weekend, the airline canceled more than 200 departures.
The airport has warned that it will be busy over the coming weeks. A spokesperson said:
“The terminals may be busy during peak periods, such as weekends and the Easter holidays, when we see the airport returning to 2019 [passenger] levels, and Gatwick is advising passengers to arrive at the earliest time their airline allows to check-in – and to make sure they know what they can and cannot carry through security before arriving at the airport.”
When should I arrive at the airport?
Airlines and airports have taken to emailing customers advising them to arrive three hours before departure, even for short-haul flights. Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham echoed this advice in a statement on Wednesday. However, many passengers have gone one step further – most holidaymakers Telegraph Travel spoke to at Manchester Airport on April 7 had arrived four hours early, or even more. Early birds should be warned that some airports will only allow you to go through security, or to drop your bags, four hours before departure.
For those determined to arrive at the crack of dawn, Heathrow’s check-in desks and security usually opens at 4am, while at Gatwick’s North Terminal security opens at 2am.
For those worried about potential queues, certain airports allow passengers to pay for fast-track security (which costs £4 at Manchester and £5 at Stansted). However, in the current circumstances there is no guarantee you’ll sail through – passengers at Manchester last weekend reported two-hour waits, even in the fast lane.
What should I do if security delays mean I miss my flight?
Many passengers at Manchester claimed to have missed flights due to security delays in recent days. However, the airport has now reportedly put in a procedure to call passengers with only an hour to spare to the front of the line – a common practice across most UK airports.
Unfortunately, airports are not legally required to help or compensate passengers who miss flights due to security delays. They may try and transfer you to another flight, although there is no guarantee of this.
More robust travel insurance policies might cover your predicament, if you can prove you traveled to the airport sufficiently early.
What shall I do if my flight is delayed or cancelled?
For delays of three hours or more which are the fault of the airline, you are entitled to a cash payment of £220 for short flights and £350 for a flight of 1,500–3,500km. For flights over 3,500km you should receive £520 for a delay of three to four hours. You don’t have to take the flight if it’s delayed for five hours or more, and will be entitled to a full refund within seven days. However, compensation does not apply in all cases.
Are ferries running normally?
The ongoing suspension of P&O Ferries’ services between Dover and Calais has caused lengthy delays on the south English coast. It is understood that P&O will resume services in due course (check Twitter for updates) but for now they remain suspended.
Those with a confirmed P&O Ferries booking to travel on April 13 have been advised to arrive at the port for the sailing time booked. Once at the port they should head to the DFDS booths (Dover) or P&O booths (Calais).
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.