UAE passengers arriving at Heathrow describe turmoil and chaotic scenes

Cancelled flights and understaffed airport terminals create misery for passengers

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Businessmen and holidaymakers caught up in UK airport disruption have described chaotic scenes after landing in London from the Emirates.

Heathrow is at the centre of a row with airlines after it capped daily arrivals, forcing airlines to cancel scheduled flights and passengers to scrap plans.

From snaking queues at passport control to hours waiting in the baggage hall to collect luggage, it is a nightmare for those flying from the UAE to the UK, and elsewhere in Europe.

Everyone crowded into the hall, but there were no belts running, no announcements and no bags
Lionel Prodgers, regular flyer to London

Etihad Airways announced the first of its flights into Heathrow from Abu Dhabi had been rescheduled on Thursday.

Understaffed and underprepared for the bounce back from Covid-19 is how Emirates described the unfolding disruption at the UK’s busiest airports on Thursday.

Lionel Prodgers, a British management consultant in Abu Dhabi who regularly flies back to London for business, was caught up in delays at Heathrow on Sunday.

“I commute a lot between the UK and UAE, it was my first experience of returning to Heathrow for a while and it was a disaster,” he said.

“There was very little activity at Terminal 4. I flew business and was the first off the plane and through immigration.

“Thankfully, the e-gates were working so I was first in the baggage hall.

“At the same time, flights had arrived from Qatar and Oman, so it got very busy, very quickly.

“Everyone crowded into the hall, but there were no belts running, no announcements and no bags.”

British Airways staff at Heathrow last month voted to strike in a row over pay.

Refuelling staff at Heathrow announced the possibility of a three-day strike, with employees of Aviation Fuel Services risking further delays to airline schedules later in July.

In June, images of mountains of luggage were posted on social media by disgruntled flyers, unable to track down their bags after landing in London.

Mr Prodgers said logistical issues remain unresolved almost a month later.

“Luckily, my bag was one of the first off but I was still waiting for more than an hour,” he said.

“Usually, it takes just 10 minutes when I fly business," he said. "I felt sorry for those left to wait, there was nowhere to sit down and rest and there was no information for passengers.

“The bags were just sitting on the planes waiting for people to take them off.

“I have to travel for business, I don’t have a choice.

“I was supposed to be travelling to Paris at the end of the month, but I have had my flight cancelled twice by British Airways.

“I’ve flown to Heathrow many times, but it has been declining for some time.”

Glasgow travellers endure three-hour security wait

Laura Gallagher was travelling on British Airways with her two children Frankie, 12, and Hannah, 7, when she was caught up in the turmoil.

"We literally queued for 3 hours when we landed at Heathrow at passport control and security at Terminal 5. The E-Gates were closed and there was only 1 desk open for passport control," she told The National.

"There was basically a member of staff walking up and down the queue yelling if your next flight is within 2 hours you’re definitely missing it."

The recent heatwave in the UK may have been enjoyed by those already in the country, but the UAE resident of 12 years said it created an unbearable environment.

"It was absolutely roasting hot because the weather has been great, there were thousands of people packed together and of course no AC."

In total, Ms Gallagher and her children spent 3.5 hours in queues before reaching the connecting flight to Glasgow, which was delayed by two hours. She said every other flight at nearby gates were also delayed.

Airlines are desperately trying to manage the situation, offering passengers free re-bookings in order to ease the pressure on staff.

"We are receiving emails everyday requesting that [my husband] rearrange his flight and we can rebook for free in next 12 months as long as he agrees not to fly next week because of the number restrictions," said Ms Gallagher.

"And as soon as I landed in Glasgow on Tuesday night I had an email saying that the domestic leg of our return flight is already canceled and it is our responsibility to rebook."

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Updated: July 15, 2022, 3:57 PM