Passengers tell of airport woes as summer travel chaos grips the globe

Airports have struggled to cope with a surge in demand as Covid-19 travel restrictions are lifted

People wait in a long queue in front of the security check at the international airport in Frankfurt, Germany. AP
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Airports around the world are the scene of summer holiday horror shows, with embattled passengers facing lengthy delays, last-minute cancellations and lost luggage.

The aviation industry has buckled under the weight of pent-up demand for travel, with not enough staff to cope with the highest frequency of flyers since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It has meant the idea of a dream getaway has turned into a nightmare for tens of thousands eager to make up for lost time after the easing of travel restrictions.

Heathrow Airport in London, which has suffered major disruption, introduced a daily 100,000 passenger limit, meaning flights have to be rerouted to other airports or cancelled.

While Europe has faced plenty of travel torment, it is a global issue. On Monday, there were more than 25,000 flight delays and 3,100 cancellations around the world, FlightAware tracking data has shown.

In the US, 19 airports reported that about one in five flights were delayed. Fifty per cent were delayed at John F Kennedy International Airport in New York.

The National has spoken to passengers caught up in the chaos, from Germany to Turkey and Jordan.

Passengers tell of travel woes

Dubai resident Maria Al Shakaa, 20, a University of Southampton student, had a troublesome trip back to the UAE from London on July 12.

Her connecting flight from Frankfurt was initially delayed by an hour, with a lack of clear information from airport staff causing distress for Ms Al Shakaa and her fellow travellers.

“The flight was delayed three times and we ended up flying four hours late,” she said.

“The Lufthansa staff were very rude.”

The airline has removed more than 3,000 flights from its Frankfurt and Munich schedules for the summer to “prevent overloading of ground processes during peak periods”.

Some passengers flying with Royal Jordanian complained of delays, cancellations, inadequate refunds and lost luggage.

One woman wrote to the airline to complain after her flight was delayed and then cancelled.

“When I was refunded I received only 20 per cent of the price! How can that be fair in any way?”

A Lebanese family of four, including an infant, flew with the airline from Dubai heading to Detroit, Michigan, with a connecting flight in Amman on July 16.

Passengers forced to sleep on airport floor

Once in the Jordanian capital, their flight was delayed until the next morning.

“No one told us the cause of the delay but travellers around said that airport crew and pilots were on strike,” said the father, 45.

He said hundreds of travellers waited at the airport reception and slept on the floor while young children grew agitated.

They were provided with accommodation at a hotel near the airport after eight hours.

“The airport was crowded with stranded travellers due to flight delays and there was no priority for families with children," he said.

Flights for some other passengers that the family met at the airport were delayed for three days, he said.

“My overall experience was undesirable, especially for a family with kids.”

The airline has apologised for delays and cancellations that it said were caused by the “global surge in travel post Covid-19".

Dismay at lack of support

Dubai resident Dalia Abdelbary, 32, said she made a desperate dash to catch her flight home from Istanbul Airport while 24 weeks pregnant.

Ms Abdelbary, from Palestine, said she and her husband had no assistance from staff as they struggled to find their way from the car park to the departure area of the airport.

“We followed signs that said airport car park and after we arrived, we were told we had to drive out of the car park and go to the other end,” she said.

But because the gate to the car park was broken, the couple were forced to go on foot.

“When we asked for help from a police officer at the airport and said that we might miss our flight, he simply said it wasn't his problem," she said.

“Many problems happened during our visit, starting from arrival to Istanbul with our internal flight being changed without our approval, and waiting for nearly two hours to board, to chaos at the airport and employees who didn’t speak a language that people could understand.”

Updated: July 21, 2022, 7:36 AM
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