Holidaymakers hoping to get away for Easter face long delays for ferries and severe disruption at UK airports during the busiest weekend for travel since the pandemic began.

Manchester Airport urged passengers to arrive three hours before departure to avoid missing their flights as staff shortages have led to the build up of lengthy queues.

After cutting thousands of jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, the aviation industry in general is suffering from difficulties recruiting staff and waiting for security checks to be passed on new employees.

There has also been a recent rise in coronavirus-related staff sickness.  

British Airways and easyJet have announced 128 flight cancellations today, with BA calling off 72 flights and the low-cost airline 56, according to reports. 

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh urged ministers to prioritise staff at Manchester and other major airports for Home Office security checks so they can start work as soon as possible.

Ms Haigh MP said: ‘Brits are facing a week of travel disruption, and this Conservative Government are missing in action.

‘Tory ministers need to step-up and act to ease the disruption. The Government need to begin clearing the huge backlogs in security checks so airport staff can safely begin work.’

Drivers have also been urged to avoid the M20, the A20 and the A2 as a result of a 23-mile lorry queue, including more than 2,000 lorries, caused by Operation Brock. 

Non-freight traffic is being advised to use the A20 instead of the M20, while freight traffic coming off J8 of the M20 has been sent into holding areas to await clearance before heading to the Channel Crossings.  

P&O said no Dover to Calais services would run until next week at the earliest as it continues to try to get the route running again after sacking nearly 800 seafarers without notice.  

Manchester Airport has also urged passengers to arrive three hours before departure to avoid missing their flights as staff shortages have led to the build up of lengthy queues (pictured: Manchester Airport departures)

Cars and freight lorries face a severe backlog of traffic as they attempt to check in at the Port of Dover in Kent

Cars and freight lorries face a severe backlog of traffic as they attempt to check in at the Port of Dover in Kent

Drivers have also been been urged to avoid the M20, the A20 and the A2 as a result of a 23-mile lorry queue, including more than 2,000 lorries, caused by Operation Brock

Drivers have also been been urged to avoid the M20, the A20 and the A2 as a result of a 23-mile lorry queue, including more than 2,000 lorries, caused by Operation Brock

After cutting thousands of jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, the aviation industry in general is suffering from difficulties recruiting staff and waiting for security checks to be passed on new employees (pictured: lines begin to grow at Manchester Airport in the morning)

After cutting thousands of jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, the aviation industry in general is suffering from difficulties recruiting staff and waiting for security checks to be passed on new employees (pictured: lines begin to grow at Manchester Airport in the morning)

Queues continue at Manchester Airport departure check in today despite pleas from bosses to arrive three hours before departure time

Queues continue at Manchester Airport departure check in today despite pleas from bosses to arrive three hours before departure time

One passenger tweeted: 'Absolute carnage @Gatwick_Airport !! WIZZ Air flights delayed by 5hrs without any update from the airline!! Finally flying @midnight to Milan'

One passenger tweeted: ‘Absolute carnage @Gatwick_Airport !! WIZZ Air flights delayed by 5hrs without any update from the airline!! Finally flying @midnight to Milan’

The firm’s Larne to Cairnryan route also remains suspended, although Hull to Rotterdam is back on a reduced schedule. Liverpool to Dublin is operating fully again.

With up to 70 sailings a day still reportedly affected, roads in Kent have seen long tailbacks as lorries queue to get into the port of Dover.  

A statement from Kent Highways read: ‘The M20 Coast bound from J8-J11 remains closed following the implementation of Brock Zero due to continuing high volumes freight heading to the Port of Dover and Euro Tunnel arriving in Kent.

‘All vehicles and Freight which is not crossing the channel will be diverted onto the A20 and should follow the hollow circle diversion symbol and other signs and re-join the M20 at J11.

‘Hard closures are being put in place by Kent Police and National Highways on all Coastbound slips which join the M20 between J8 and J11. 

Ms Haigh also called on ministers to open emergency talks with ferry operators and Eurotunnel to increase capacity following the suspension of services by P&O Ferries after it controversially sacked 800 seafarers. 

‘They (ministers) need to look urgently at what powers they can use to force P&O Ferries to re-employ trained and experienced staff on their original terms to get the routes up and running,’ Ms Haigh said.

It comes on the UK’s busiest weekend of travel since the pandemic began in March 2020, with families leaving and returning at the same time as they make the most of being able to travel abroad without Covid-19 restrictions. 

A very busy terminal 2 at Londons Heathrow Airport as people head off for Easter holidays

A very busy terminal 2 at Londons Heathrow Airport as people head off for Easter holidays

There has also been a recent rise in coronavirus-related staff sickness (pictured: Manchester Airport)

There has also been a recent rise in coronavirus-related staff sickness (pictured: Manchester Airport)

P&O said no Dover to Calais services would run until next week at the earliest as it continues to try to get the route running again after sacking nearly 800 seafarers without notice

P&O said no Dover to Calais services would run until next week at the earliest as it continues to try to get the route running again after sacking nearly 800 seafarers without notice

The firm’s Larne to Cairnryan route also remains suspended, although Hull to Rotterdam is back on a reduced schedule. Liverpool to Dublin is operating fully again

With up to 70 sailings a day still reportedly affected, roads in Kent have seen long tailbacks as lorries queue to get into the port of Dover

With up to 70 sailings a day still reportedly affected, roads in Kent have seen long tailbacks as lorries queue to get into the port of Dover

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh urged ministers to prioritise staff at Manchester (pictured) and other major airports for Home Office security checks so they can start work as soon as possible

Shadow transport secretary Louise Haigh urged ministers to prioritise staff at Manchester (pictured) and other major airports for Home Office security checks so they can start work as soon as possible

Ms Haigh MP said: 'Brits are facing a week of travel disruption, and this Conservative Government are missing in action' (pictured: queues at Heathrow Airport)

Ms Haigh MP said: ‘Brits are facing a week of travel disruption, and this Conservative Government are missing in action’ (pictured: queues at Heathrow Airport)

'Tory ministers need to step-up and act to ease the disruption. The Government need to begin clearing the huge backlogs in security checks so airport staff can safely begin work' (pictured: air passengers queue at London Heathrow Airport)

‘Tory ministers need to step-up and act to ease the disruption. The Government need to begin clearing the huge backlogs in security checks so airport staff can safely begin work’ (pictured: air passengers queue at London Heathrow Airport)

Non-freight traffic is being advised to use the A20 instead of the M20, while freight traffic coming off J8 of the M20 has been sent into holding areas to await clearance before heading to the Channel Crossings

Non-freight traffic is being advised to use the A20 instead of the M20, while freight traffic coming off J8 of the M20 has been sent into holding areas to await clearance before heading to the Channel Crossings

More travel chaos as passengers frantically dash near Gate D in Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport ahead of the Easter holidays

More travel chaos as passengers frantically dash near Gate D in Terminal 2 at London Heathrow Airport ahead of the Easter holidays

A DFDS ferry (top right) arrives at the Port of Dover in Kent passing moored P&O Ferries the Pride of Kent (front), Spirit of Britian (left) and the Pride of Canterbury (top)

A DFDS ferry (top right) arrives at the Port of Dover in Kent passing moored P&O Ferries the Pride of Kent (front), Spirit of Britian (left) and the Pride of Canterbury (top)

Delays to Channel crossings are being driven by the suspension of P&O Ferries sailings after the operator sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice last month

Delays to Channel crossings are being driven by the suspension of P&O Ferries sailings after the operator sacked nearly 800 seafarers without notice last month

A statement from Kent Highways read: 'The M20 Coast bound from J8-J11 remains closed following the implementation of Brock Zero due to continuing high volumes freight heading to the Port of Dover and Euro Tunnel arriving in Kent'

A statement from Kent Highways read: ‘The M20 Coast bound from J8-J11 remains closed following the implementation of Brock Zero due to continuing high volumes freight heading to the Port of Dover and Euro Tunnel arriving in Kent’

Last week, more than 1,100 flights to and from the UK were cancelled, mostly by British Airways and easyJet partly due to staff shortages. Yesterday, BA axed 74 flights and easyJet cut 52, affecting 15,000 passengers.

Queues were so large at Manchester that some travellers missed flights.

Passengers reported that it was taking several hours to check in, get through security and collect luggage.

There have also been bottlenecks at Heathrow and Birmingham airports in recent days.

Yesterday, the boss of Manchester Airport’s owner admitted the airport does not have enough staff.

Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, wrote: ‘The simple fact is that we don’t currently have the number of staff we need to provide the level of service that our passengers deserve.

‘Despite our efforts since last autumn, the tight labour market around the airport has meant we have just not been able to hire people quickly enough to establish a full-strength team.

‘Practically, staff shortages mean that we cannot open all the security lanes we need and, at times, this results in longer queues than we want to see.

‘While we still expect most passengers to get through in less than 30 to 40 minutes, there will be times over the next few months when waiting times will rise to between 60 and 90 minutes.’

EXCLUSIVE: Under-fire Manchester Airport boss who quit over flight chaos is spotted near her £1.2million five-bedroom home in BERKSHIRE 

Manchester Airport’s outgoing boss Karen Smart has been seen for the first time since she quit over chaotic scenes that caused thousands of holidaymakers to miss their flights.

Mrs Smart, 55, was pictured behind the wheel of her £25,000 Mercedes convertible sports car driving near her five-bedroom Berkshire home.

She quit her role last week after staff shortages at Britain’s third busiest airport sparked queues at security and check-in desks lasting as long as seven hours.

Passengers stuck in line in stuffy confined areas caused some to vomit while children were reportedly forced to urinate in small plastic bags normally used to carry liquid items onto aircraft.

Mrs Smart, 55, was pictured behind the wheel of her £25,000 Mercedes convertible sports car

Mrs Smart, 55, was pictured behind the wheel of her £25,000 Mercedes convertible sports car

Mrs Smart owns a five-bedroom property in Berkshire worth £1.2 million

Mrs Smart owns a five-bedroom property in Berkshire worth £1.2 million 

There have also been serious delays at baggage reclaim where piles of suitcases were left in terminals by fed up travellers who abandoned their belongings and instead headed home.

Mrs Smart stepped down on Tuesday after being in the post for the last two years.

She had come under fierce criticism from airport staff and passengers alike and had been due to meet Andy Burnham, the mayor of Greater Manchester and members of the Unite union to explain the fiasco.

In a statement, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) said: ‘Having taken on the position at the start of the pandemic, she has decided now is the time to return to the south of England, where her family is based, to pursue fresh career opportunities.’

MailOnline approached Mrs Smart for comment at her £1.1million house near Wokingham, Berkshire, on Friday but she declined to say anything. She later left in her silver 2019 Mercedes Benz C200 AMG.

The staff shortages at Manchester Airport have been caused by a struggle to recruit staff made redundant after the pandemic shutdown of airports and travel.

Yet, the annual report of MAG, which also owns London Stansted and East Midlands airports, showed that pay for the group’s managers rose by £2.8millin to £12.2million in the year ending 31 March 2021 – the first 12 months of Covid when air travel slumped.

Karen Smart resigned as managing director of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which owns Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports, after just two years in the post

Images from Manchester Airport showed passengers in long queues amid staff shortages  

Queues continue at Manchester Airport departure check in today (April 9) despite pleas to arrive only 3 hours before departure time

Queues continue at Manchester Airport departure check in today (April 9) despite pleas to arrive only 3 hours before departure time

Passengers queue inside the departures area of Terminal 1 at Manchester Airport, as the getaway starts in earnest as schools close for Easter

Passengers queue inside the departures area of Terminal 1 at Manchester Airport, as the getaway starts in earnest as schools close for Easter

Mother-of-three Mrs Smart’s Facebook profile shows that last summer during the Covid pandemic she enjoyed a cruise in the Mediterranean aboard a private yacht.

She posted a series of photographs showing her with family and friends basking in the sunshine off Spain’s Balearic coastline.

The businesswoman also boasted of staying in a stunning villa overlooking the sea on the Greek island of Santorini last October.

A keen Manchester United fan, she posed for a photo with former captain Bryan Robson at Old Trafford last May. She is also a rugby supporter and regularly watches two of her elder sons play.

Ken O’Toole, the deputy chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, said the next four to six weeks would be a ‘difficult period’ for the airport, with some passengers facing queues of 60 to 90 minutes.

However, he said that passengers missing their flights as a result of huge queues last weekend were an ‘isolated incident’, adding 220 new staff had been recruited and were currently being trained to start work over the coming weeks.

In the meantime, he urged travellers to arrive three hours in advance to ensure they do not miss their flights around the Easter holidays.

Passengers travelling from Manchester Airport over the weekend reported a much more efficient experience now that Ms Smart had gone.

There have also been serious delays at baggage reclaim where piles of suitcases were left in terminals by fed up travellers who abandoned their belongings

There have also been serious delays at baggage reclaim where piles of suitcases were left in terminals by fed up travellers who abandoned their belongings

Adam Powell, 24, from Burnage, Manchester, who was travelling to Amsterdam, said: ‘She should have resigned weeks earlier because whoever has replaced her seems to have got things under control.   

‘I arrived around three hours before my flight but had no problems checking in. I was dreading it today but it’s been fine.

‘It is annoying that she’s been pulling a massive wage and clears off at the first sign of trouble.’

Paul and Helen Wright, from Macclesfield, Cheshire, were at terminal 2 to catch at flight to Doha, Qatar.

Roofer Paul, 52, said: ‘We arrived more than four hours before our flight because we were determined not to miss it. We are travelling to Australia to see family.

‘It has been relatively stress-free at the airport but I do feel for other passengers who missed flights earlier in the week.

‘The airport were blaming staff shortages but it couldn’t have come as a surprise that as soon as all restrictions were lifted, the airports would become busier.’

Teaching assistant Helen, 49, said: ‘They’ve had plenty of time to prepare for the return of passengers.

‘We’ve been lucky but it should have been handled better from the start.’

Queues are continuing to plague Manchester Airport this weekend

Queues are continuing to plague Manchester Airport this weekend 

Passengers queue inside the departures area of Terminal 1 at Manchester Airport

Passengers queue inside the departures area of Terminal 1 at Manchester Airport

Meanwhile, Marcus Redman, 46, an IT consultant from Preston, Lancashire, was flying to his holiday home near Alicante, Spain.

He said: ‘I was expecting it to be chaos but staff seem to have it sorted.

‘It was the stress of not knowing what we would be met with when we arrived that was the worst bit.

‘It must be nice to be able to clear off down south and leave someone else to sort the mess out.’



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