After the third failed attempt, Michael Turner gave up. The nurse from Shoreham on the south coast of England had actually planned a week’s holiday with the family in Tenerife.

But the booked flight with EasyJet from London’s Gatwick Airport was canceled 20 minutes before departure last Thursday. As an alternative, there was a connection from Manchester with TUI.

But there the family expected “absolute chaos”, as Turner told the BBC. The passengers sat in the plane at the gate for three hours before being escorted back to baggage claim.

After the alternative was also canceled at short notice on Tuesday evening, Turner decided not to make another offer from the airline for the following day. He’s back home with his family, instead of the sun on the Canary Islands, fresh spring temperatures are waving on the Channel Coast in Sussex.

A week of spring break, plus a long weekend with two public holidays thanks to the platinum anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne: it has long been agreed that the last days of May and the first days of June would mean the first major wave of travel for Great Britain in more than two years . After two years of the pandemic, most travel restrictions have now been lifted, at least in Europe.

But the hoped-for detour into the sun began with chaos for many travelers. At airports across the country, passengers are waiting for delayed departures, and countless flights have been canceled in recent days.

Images of hour-long queues at check-in are circulating on social media, and in Edinburgh they sometimes extended to the street in front of the airport building. Elsewhere, crowds gather in terminals awaiting news of an alternative to canceled services.

There is no relief in sight. Over the long weekend, which begins on Thursday, there is an even greater rush of travellers. The industry expects two million foreign travelers for the weekend or almost 19,000 flights.

The chaos at the airports has meanwhile called the Transport Minister into action. “Despite government warnings, operators have significantly overbooked flights and holidays compared to what they can deliver,” Grant Shapps said.

“This must not happen again and all efforts should be made to ensure that this does not happen again over the summer – in the first post-Covid summer season.”

Airlines and the tourism industry, on the other hand, accuse the government of letting them down for a long time. Industry association Airlines UK said the industry had just a few weeks to prepare for summer after travel restrictions were lifted in March.

In addition, the vast majority of flights were carried out on time. The association of airport operators emphasized that they have been hiring additional staff for months. “But until restrictions were lifted, uncertainty about the future of travel made (these steps, ed.) difficult.”

Industry representatives from the UK have consistently pointed out that tourism and aviation in the country have received significantly less support during the pandemic than in many countries in continental Europe. Covid brought air traffic to an almost complete standstill for months.

Ever new variants of the virus and different entry rules, which often changed at very short notice, made traveling abroad difficult for a long time. Great Britain introduced a short-time work model for the first time during the pandemic. But by no means all employees benefit from this, and tens of thousands have been laid off by airlines, ground staff and flight security.

Unions have been warning the government and employers for months that the severe bloodletting of staff during ramp-ups would cause significant problems after the pandemic, said Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of Prospect, a union that includes many aviation workers.

“Now we’re seeing staff shortages across the industry, with many relying on overtime to get by every day.”

Training new staff for the jobs takes a lot of time. In addition to familiarization, extensive security checks are necessary for many tasks at the airport.

In addition, the labor market is extremely tight, and unemployment has fallen to its lowest level in almost half a century. In April there were more vacancies than job seekers.

Due to new immigration rules since Brexit, the industry can no longer rely on EU citizens, who have traditionally done many jobs in tourism and aviation. Great Britain is thus much harder hit by the problems with air traffic than many neighboring countries.

Nevertheless, the chaotic scenes at the airports in the country could give a foretaste of what is to come in the beginning of the main travel season elsewhere.

On the island, the problems are far from over. EasyJet has announced it will cancel 24 flights a day until June 6 to avoid last-minute cancellations.

At TUI, the outages will last until the end of June, and around 35,000 travelers will be affected by the planned cancellations. Trade unionist Graham also gave little hope for a smooth holiday in the summer. “The situation could get worse this summer before it improves.”

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