Travel disruptions at Heathrow

Travel disruptions: stories of holiday cancellations, long delays and queues at some of the UK’s biggest airports

Passengers affected by travel cancellations and delays share their tales of woe …

After two years of the Covid-19 pandemic and the many lockdowns, rules and strict travel restrictions it brought with it, many of us are understandably itching to get away again. You might be planning a bucket list trip, looking forward to a city break, dreaming of a long deserved holiday or just excited about the chance to visit loved ones you haven’t seen in years this summer. 

But even though it might be easier to move around again, that doesn’t mean it’s all plain sailing, or flying, to your destination. 

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The trouble began around the busy half term break, which began on 30 May, and over the double bank holiday Jubilee weekend in June and has continued as people try to get away from the UK for summer holidays. Unfortunately, some airports and carriers are not staffed or equipped for the numbers of people traveling and for passengers that means disruptions to their plans in the form of long delays and queues to clear security (one flight from West Sussex airport to Florence made headlines when it was forced to take off empty leaving the passengers intending to fly at the airport). 

Now British Airways has cancelled 124 short-haul flights to and from London Heathrow, and EasyJet has axed a further 60 flights today the travel chaos continues. Not quite the scenarios we’ve been wanderlusting about over the past two years. 

travel delays
Travellers wait in a long queue to pass through the security check at Heathrow on 1 June, 2022.

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For Paris Palmer the disruptions have been devastating. Her honeymoon was cancelled with just five days notice, having already been delayed for over a year because of Covid.

The 32-year-old, who lives in Guildford, was due to travel from Gatwick to Mauritius in May but five days before take off she received an email saying the outbound flight had been cancelled.

Palmer says the email contained very little information. “There were no details about what to do, bearing in mind we were due to be flying in five days time – cue many frantic phone calls,” she says.

When she did make contact, she says she was told she would have to pay a surcharge(in the hundreds of pounds) to book on another flight. “:Essentially it meant that we couldn’t go”, she explains. So no honeymoon and now they are in “an almighty battle with them about compensation. The insurers are being difficult too,” she says. “I think I’m still numb with shock.”

Another TUI customer tweeted about flights to the island of Crete in Greece for June being cancelled, leaving them unable to go on holiday. 

This week, Tui also announced more than 180 flight cancellations from Manchester airport.

All the customers impacted by the planned cancellations from Manchester have now been notified, according to Tui. 

Speaking about Palmer’s cancellation a spokesperson from Tui told Stylist that no Tui customer is asked to pay a surcharge. They would instead be offered a refund or to rebook “with an incentive.” 

A statement provided to Stylist on the many other cancellations read: “We’re incredibly sorry to those customers who have been impacted by the recent disruption to our operations. We understand that last minute delays and cancellations are incredibly disappointing, and we would like to reassure our customers that we are doing everything we can to get them on holiday as planned.

Whilst every delay and cancellation is regrettable, the vast majority of our flights are operating as planned, with more than 26,000 customers taking off yesterday on holiday.

We’d like to apologise again for the inconvenience caused and we thank customers for their understanding.” 

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It wasn’t just TUI customers having their hopes dashed, both British Airways and easyJet canceled more than 150 flights to and from the UK on Wednesday 1 June.

For those whose flights were scheduled, many faced hellish queues at security.

Amanda Waterhouse was due to fly London Gatwick to Athens on Thursday 2 June with carrier Wizz Air but was left waiting for five hours. “The gates 90-95 are overcrowded and too hot. Not one staff member around”, she tweeted.

She later told Stylist that she and a friend also had to abandon their holiday in the end. “Our flight was cancelled after a six hour delay and another two hours wait to get our luggage back. Leaving Gatwick was very sad times!”, she said. She and her friend have applied for a refund for the flights but have yet to hear back. 

Teacher Naomi Thomas is another passenger with a nightmare travel story. She contacted Stylist from an apartment in Paris, where she ended up stranded with her family after attempting to get back to the UK after their return EasyJet flights from Faro airport in Portugal to Liverpool were cancelled. 

She says the departure lounge in Faro was in complete disorder. “It was clear that the airport was in chaos with no available seating, food and drink vendors closing unable to take any more orders, and passengers strewn around the gates in varying positions – trying to get comfortable after delays.” 

Near midnight, when they were at their gate ready to board Naomi heard the announcement that her flight was cancelled. “The airport was closing down. All the vendors were closed. There was no ground staff. No customer services. Who were we supposed to speak to?”, she says. 

Because they needed to get back to the UK for work and other appointments they booked some cheap flights to Paris, hoping to catch the Eurostar to London but when they arrived at Gare du Nord, all trains in and out were delayed due to an electrical failure. That train was eventually cancelled and they were told the other services were fully booked fors days. 

“After some tears, emotional phone calls and disbelief that we were in the same position we started in, but in a different country, we finally admitted defeat and retreated here, to this apartment so that we could rest and work out what to do.”

Naomi her parter and daughter are now intending to return to the UK on the next available Eurostar. “We are now hoping and praying that the rescheduled train has no issues”, she says. 

“After our first abroad holiday in five years, and a special celebration with family, our wonderful memories will forever be tarnished with the weariness, the anxiety and the disappointment we feel now.”

The aviation industry is struggling to recruit staff after waves of layoffs during the Covid-19 pandemic. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that airlines and operators have “seriously oversold flights and holidays” relative to their capacity to deliver. 

As reported by the BBC, Shapps said it had been “very distressing” to see people facing more disruption at airports with “holidays canceled and plans left in disarray”.

What to do if your flight is cancelled

If your flight is delayed or cancelled it’s important to know your rights. A checklist of what you are entitled to, and if you can claim compensation is detailed on the UK Civil Aviation Authority website. 

If your cancelled is covered by UK law, your airline must let you choose between two options, either to receive a refund or choose an alternative flight. 

If your flight is cancelled, airlines must also provide food and drink, accommodation )if you are rerouted the next day) and transport to and from the accommodation.  

According to the CAA, the airline must provide you with these items until it is able to fly you to your destination, no matter how long the delay lasts or what has caused it.

Check all your rights with the UK Civil Aviation Authority

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Image credits: Photos by Carl Court/Getty Images,