Tui cuts nearly 200 flights in nightmare for passengers

Travel company's schedule from UK's Manchester Airport reduced by six flights a day until end of June

Passengers queue at Manchester Airport, from where Tui has cancelled scores of flights. Photo: Twitter / @chrisjprice67
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Hundreds of Tui customers have been caught up in a travel nightmare as the company announced it was cancelling 186 flights to and from Manchester Airport in the UK.

Passengers who had waited for up to eight hours at the airport on Monday were forced to head back home in the early hours after their flights were cancelled.

Lengthy queues and extended waiting times at check-in and security have caused mayhem for thousands of people heading off on holidays for the half-term school break.

Industry-wide problems caused by a lack of staff have forced Tui to cancel six flights a day from Tuesday until the end of June.

The travel company incurred the wrath of angry people who were forced to wait at airports for hours, some with young children.

Dublin Airport, Schiphol in Amsterdam and Brussels Airport have also been affected by longer-than-normal queues in recent days.

Passengers queue at Gatwick Airport on Tuesday amid flight cancellations and longer-than-usual waiting times. EPA

Jayesh Patel was among those who had been due to fly from Manchester to Greece on a Tui flight on Monday and spent eight hours at the airport.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that after waiting for hours, airport staff turned up at the gate at 7.20pm and “a big cheer went up” among passengers as they thought they were about to board the aircraft. Instead, they announced the flight was cancelled because there was no pilot available.

“At about 7.30pm people were getting quite upset, children were crying, there were people going away on honeymoon and getting married,” he said. “At about 7.45pm we all started to receive text messages and emails from Tui basically saying that the flight had been cancelled and because it was a package booking the whole holiday had been cancelled.”

He said while some passengers accepted the cancellation, others were “visibly angry and upset”.

“I think the worst part of it [was] there were no staff or people to help,” he said. “Eventually a couple of police officers who worked at the airport arrived and they read out the Tui statement on behalf of Tui.”

Susan Poynton, a passenger who travelled from Manchester Airport to Ibiza on Monday on a Tui flight, said her journey was delayed by more than half a day.

“Checked in at 4am [and] finally arrived in Ibiza at 8pm,” she tweeted. “Dreadful service due to no serviceable aircraft being available.”

Ms Poynton said she had booked her trip 15 months ago, which should have meant Tui “had enough notice to get it right”.

One Tui passenger called MacKenzie said her flight to Manchester had been delayed by 26 hours, and said there was no representative on hand to offer assistance. She said one woman required medical help after passengers were forced to wait on a stuffy plane for an hour after touching down.

“Stuck on the tarmac for an hour on a hot plane due to no staff at Manchester Airport resulting in a woman requiring paramedics,” she tweeted. “Over three hours waiting for suitcases to come off the plane. Really appalling from Tui.”

Lord Parkinson, the UK’s Arts Minister, sought to deflect blame from the Conservative-led government for the lack of staff in the travel industry. He told Sky News that the government had been using “post-Brexit freedoms to make sure we can recruit people as swiftly as possible”.

Airlines and airports were forced to lay off vast numbers of personnel during the Covid-19 pandemic and many are struggling to replenish their workforces as demand for travel is surging.

“We’ve been saying to the industry for quite some time they should have been preparing for this,” Lord Parkinson said.

“The companies should have had the people in place and we’re working with colleagues at the Department for Transport to make sure that they can get people in as swiftly as possible.”

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel magazine, accused the government and regulators of creating a situation where “airlines feel empowered to treat passengers poorly and ignore their legal obligations to put passengers on alternative flights to their destinations, with other carriers if necessary”. Mr Boland said if stricter rules were introduced it would help thousands of people affected by flight cancellations.

“It is obvious to anyone witnessing the shameful scenes at UK airports that passenger rights desperately need to be strengthened rather than weakened further,” he said.

A Tui representative apologised for the issues and said passengers who had their flights cancelled would be entitled to a full refund.

“We would like to apologise to our customers who have experienced flight delays and cancellations in recent days and understand that many of our customers have been looking forward to their holiday with us for a long time,” they said.

“Due to the amount of ongoing disruption in our operation at Manchester Airport, we have made the incredibly difficult decision to cancel six flights a day, from Tuesday, May 31 until Thursday, June 30. All other airports in the UK are planned to operate as normal.

“We understand how disappointing this will be for those impacted; however, we believe this is necessary to provide stability and a better customer service at Manchester Airport. We will continue to work closely with all our airport partners and suppliers so we can provide the best possible holiday experience for our customers.”

'People screaming in queues'

The chaos affecting Tui also spread to budget airline Wizz Air, with reports of long queues and stressed passengers at London's Gatwick Airport.

Passenger Paola Marinone was among the disgruntled customers who took to Twitter to demand answers.

“Wizz Air, can you please manage the hundreds of people in random queues at the South Terminal at Gatwick Airport?” she wrote. “It is simply unacceptable how it is handled!

“People screaming as we speak. Please do something and fast!”

A spokeswoman for Wizz Air said “a small number” of flights from Gatwick had been affected by issues affecting the wider travel industry, including staff shortages. The representative said the firm was working closely with the airport and ground handlers to minimise disruption for passengers.

“Wizz Air sincerely apologises for the inconvenience caused and has contacted affected customers directly to inform them about their rights,” she added.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for easyJet said the airline had not cancelled any additional flights on top of the 240 trips called off last week. The airlines had slashed 24 scheduled flights to and from Gatwick each day from May 28 to June 6.

The cancellations were unveiled a day after the airline suffered an IT glitch, which forced it to cancel 200 flights.

In a statement, the company apologised to customers for pulling the flights at short notice but said it was “necessary to provide reliable services over this busy period”.

EasyJet said customers would have the option of rebooking or receiving a refund.

Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the Prospect trade union, said there were “staff shortages across the industry” and a “huge reliance on overtime to get by day-to-day”.

He said the months ahead could bring further upheaval to people’s travel plans.

“In many areas, like air traffic control, overtime is only a temporary sticking plaster,” he said. “So, things could get worse this summer before they get better.”

Sharon Graham, Unite general secretary, said those in charge of British aviation companies “should hang their heads in shame”. She said they “got very rich on high profits and low pay” before sacking and cutting the wages of thousands of workers during the coronavirus crisis.

She said: “Now they are reaping what they have sown because, understandably, people don’t want to work for them any more.”

Updated: June 01, 2022, 5:46 AM