Holidaymakers who battled lengthy queues and delays leaving the UK could encounter further problems on their return journey as hubs in Europe and the US struggle with their own travel disruption.
Tourists have faced severe hold-ups at UK airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham as they took advantage of relaxed Covid travel restrictions to enjoy a break at half-term.
Those who have been lucky enough to avoid the mass cancellations of flights by airlines such as easyJet and Tui could face problems getting back into the UK both by air and rail as other transport hubs in popular holiday spots reported disruption.
In Ireland, passengers at Dublin airport faced lengthy queues that stretched out of the terminal doors. Pauline Moore, who missed her Ryanair flight from Dublin to Stansted on Sunday morning, said in a Facebook post that the situation at the airport was “total bedlam”.
A press release from the airport acknowledged the problem it had coping with so many travellers and said it intended to implement a new plan to “improve queue management, maximise the availability of staffing resources, and increase the number of security lanes open at peak times”.
Dutch airline KLM last week largely suspended ticket sales for flights leaving from Amsterdam Schiphol airport – Europe’s third busiest – after queues stretched into the streets.
One easyJet customer told the Independent that the situation at the airport was “complete chaos” and that people were behaving “like animals”.
Schiphol’s chief executive officer, Dick Benschop, promised that the issues at the airport would “be gone by summer”.
The Paris Authority, which manages Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, also warned of major disruption. A tweet from its account said it was having software problems that were affecting border control checks and this would lead to delays.
In a statement on its Twitter account on Wednesday, Eurostar said it was experiencing problems for similar reasons: “Our stations are very busy today. Passport and security checks are taking longer than usual due to issues with French authority control systems.”
In Sweden, the CEO of airport operator Swedavia, Jonas Abrahamsson, has been summoned to parliament to answer questions about long queues at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport. Travel blogger Rakhee said on Twitter that queues at Arlanda were “horrendous” and it took “a few hours” to get through security and passport control.
In the US more than 2,500 flights were cancelled over the four-day memorial day weekend. The industry struggled to cope with the increase in passengers, which led to delays at Los Angeles International Airport and Denver International Airport.
Airports and airlines were forced to significantly cut back staff after a succession of Covid lockdowns in Europe crippled the travel industry. But restrictions on travel have now mostly been dropped, and demand has surged as people try to get abroad.
However, despite a significant recruitment, drive airlines and airports have not managed to hire enough key workers, such as baggage handlers, to ensure that foreign travel runs seamlessly.
Willie Walsh, director general of the International Transport Association (IATA), earlier this week downplayed the prospect of travel chaos spreading to other airports. He said: “There are issues in some airports – it’s not across the world.”