London travellers face double whammy of strikes and cancelled flights

·4-min read
London travellers face double whammy of strikes and cancelled flights

Coaches at London airports are running at “full capacity” as passengers scramble to find alternate routes amid rail and Tube strikes, and continued flight cancellations.

National Express said its Gatwick and Stansted airport services were very busy on Tuesday, with most coaches running at full capacity.

“Outbound passengers are aware of the disruption and have planned accordingly. Inbound passengers are being supported by the airports,” a National Express spokesman told the Standard.

“We recommend customers book in advance and allow plenty of time when planning their journey.”

Meanwhile, at least 24 flights had been labelled as cancelled to and from Gatwick Airport on Tuesday, including 18 from EasyJet across popular destinations such as Barcelona, Athens, Ibiza, Belfast City and Edinburgh.

The airport remains busy but with no “significant issues”, a spokesperson told the Standard.

Seven departures had been cancelled on Tuesday out of 367 in total, the spokesperson said.

Around 10 trains are scheduled to leave the airport every hour from 7am to 5.30pm.

Passengers are being urged to hire a car, pre-book a parking space or book a bus or taxi.

National Express is running services from Gatwick and Stansted airports (National Express)
National Express is running services from Gatwick and Stansted airports (National Express)

One passenger at Gatwick Airport on Tuesday morning reported “horrendous looking” queues at security.

They wrote on Twitter: “EasyJet speedy bag drop no queues. Horrendous looking queue for security snaking back to Emirates check in.  Expected at least 90 minutes wait. Actual time 50 minutes.”

Stansted Airport has been approached for comment. It said passengers are “well aware” of the rail strikes.

Two trains per hour will operate on the “extremely limited” Stansted Express service with the exception of one train per hour on June 23.

There were no reports of issues at Heathrow Airport on Tuesday morning but the airport warned of “extremely busy” trains.

It warned passengers: “There will be a very limited Heathrow Express and Elizabeth Line service running from 07.30 to 18.30 every 30 minutes.

“However, these trains are expected to be extremely busy. Roads around Heathrow will also be busier than normal on these days, so please allow extra time for your journey.”

Heathrow asked airlines on Monday to cut 10 percent of flights at two terminals, while easyJet started cancelling thousands of summer flights.

The move by Heathrow affected around 5,000 passengers at Terminals 2 and 3 on approximately 30 flights.

Images emerged on Friday of a huge pile-up of passengers’ luggage to add to passenger woes with delays and cancelled flights.

Lines of passenger luggage arranged at Heathrow Airport (REUTERS)
Lines of passenger luggage arranged at Heathrow Airport (REUTERS)

Meanwhile, the boss of budget airline Ryanair has warned that flight delays and cancellations will continue “right throughout the summer” as airports suffer amid staff shortages.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, said passengers should brace for a “less than satisfactory experience”, with flight delays due to last across the peak season and some airlines cancelling between 5 and 10 percent of flights.

He told Sky News this was “deeply regrettable”.

He said: “This problem is going to continue particularly at airports like Gatwick and Heathrow right throughout the summer.

“It will be worse at weekends and better during the week.”

He said 99 percent of Ryanair flights are getting away and that the experience was so far better at its Stansted base than other UK airports, but admitted it will be a “struggle through the summer”.

Mr O’Leary blamed the problems on shortages of airport staff across air traffic control, baggage handling and security.

He said that Ryanair was not immune to the issues, with last weekend seeing 25 percent of its flights delayed by air traffic control issues and a further 15 percent by airports handling delays.

He said Brexit was compounding the disruption caused as demand ramps up after pandemic restrictions were lifted, with airports unable to hire workers from abroad to fill posts.

He said: “There are hundreds of thousands of jobs in the UK that frankly British workers don’t want to do.

“These problems will not be resolved until we start allowing people in to do the jobs.”

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