Travellers have said airports across the UK are “total chaos” as hundreds of thousands of people fly out for the summer holidays.
Two hour-long queues to show COVID-19 documentation before being allowed airside were reported at Heathrow on Saturday while there were complaints of a lack of staff at Stansted Airport, causing “chaotic scenes”.
Airports and airlines are expecting their busiest weekend of the year, with Heathrow expected to welcome about 128,000 passengers over the two days, although that is down from pre-pandemic daily volumes of around 230,000 to 260,000 in July 2019.
All schools have now broken up and with several popular European holiday destinations now on the green and amber lists, people are keen to get away after not being able to go abroad for many months due to the pandemic.
Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said more staff would be on hand to ensure passengers have a “smooth journey”.
However, Fiona Brett, a violinist travelling to Frankfurt with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, said she had to queue for two hours at Heathrow on Saturday to show her COVID vaccination certificate to staff at check-in, despite already checking in online.
Ms Brett, from Watlington, Oxfordshire, said the “total chaos” meant her 9.30am flight was delayed.
“They were constantly calling people out of the queue for the next flight that was closing,” she said.
“Actually it would have been better to turn up at 8.30 and get called from the back of the queue to the front – total chaos.
“When I finally managed to check in (15 mins after the flight should have closed) the security queues were non existent and there was virtually no one airside in the terminal.
“I believe the queues were caused not by too many people but by the airlines having to do all the extra checks before properly checking in.”
Long queues to get into the UK have been a common feature this year
At London Stansted, Dr Robert Baunsbak Coull, tweeted: “@Ryanair totally unacceptable scenes at Stansted Airport with total lack of staff on the ground, queues of lost passengers and chaotic scenes. #superspreader #covid19.”
Lily McMyn, also at Stansted, posted pictures of a packed check-in area and said: “@STN_Airport shocking, chaos and bedlam.”
Public transport operators have had to reduce services in the past couple of weeks due to the “pingdemic” – where lots of staff are being pinged by the COVID app so have to self-isolate.
The airports have not said if this is also the case.
Check-in times at UK airports has increased due to extra requirements while travelling during the pandemic
Gatwick said it expects to see around 250 to 260 flights and between 25,000 to 27,000 passengers a day over the weekend, up from a low of just 15 flights a day at the height of the pandemic.
Stansted is expecting 1,330 flights, Manchester Airport 958 and East Midlands Airport 224 from Friday to Monday.
England brought in a traffic light entry system for passengers in May, with quarantine and testing requirements determined by whether a person is entering the UK from a green, amber or red list location.
Green list arrivals do not have to self-isolate, however only a handful of major European summer hotspots are on that list.
Greece, Spain and Italy are on the amber list, but since Monday, passengers who are fully vaccinated can return from those countries without quarantining for 10 days, which has boosted passenger numbers.