Easter UK travel guide: Travellers face airport chaos and road gridlock

Good Friday is expected to be the busiest day

Passengers queue for airport check-in on Thursday afternoon, ahead of the Easter Bank Holiday weekend, at Heathrow Airport. Reuters
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Travellers faced more delays on Thursday as experts warned tomorrow will be the busiest day of the year for travel at airports and on roads.

Passengers at Manchester and Birmingham airports shared pictures on social media of lines stretching far away from check-in desks, with one saying the situation was “utterly shambolic”.

Large numbers of people had to wait at Tui check-in desks at Manchester Airport, with other customers telling of a 90-minute wait for luggage.

“We can confirm that unfortunately due to staff shortages at Manchester Airport today, some customers are experiencing longer-than-usual queue times at check-in," the firm said.

Queues at Manchester Airport on Thursday morning. Photo: Rachel Waterman/Twitter

“Please be assured that our teams are working as quickly as they can.”

Good Friday is likely to be the busiest day of Easter, with 2,430 flights leaving the UK and more than 9,000 departing over the bank holiday weekend.

Motoring organisation the RAC believes Good Friday will be the busiest day on the UK's roads in at least eight years.

It has predicted 21.5 million leisure trips will be made by car between Good Friday and Easter Monday.

Motorists are being warned to set off on journeys before 9am to avoid being stuck in hours of traffic jams.

The worst areas expected for congestion are the M6 north between Junction 26 and Junction 36, the M25 clockwise from Junction 8 to Junction 16, and the A303 near Stonehenge.

Airports have already suffered more than a week of chaos with staff shortages causing long delays.

Passengers have been advised to arrive three hours before flights to ensure they can pass through security checks in time.

Airport transport firm founder Michael Harley said he has seen bookings soar as more people are travelling since the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions.

“This will be our busiest weekend in years,” he said.

“We have been inundated with calls and bookings and are full. We have warned our customers to expect delays at the airport and advised them to travel earlier, and that we will be collecting them earlier.

“Many people are taking advantage of the lifting of Covid restrictions and this weekend feels like business is returning to pre-pandemic levels.”

On Thursday, London's Heathrow Airport, one of the busiest in the world, was continuing to prepare passengers for the possibility of delays transitioning through the airport.

“Queue times have been longer as passenger numbers have increased,” it tweeted.

“We do not have information of how long it takes to pass security, as this can change daily. Whilst queue times have been slightly longer as passenger numbers rise, we would like to assure you that all teams are working diligently to efficiently assist passengers and keep any waits to a minimum.”

More than 20,000 people have suffered flight cancellations due to airline staff shortages.

On Thursday, British Airways and easyJet were forced to cancel more than 80 flights at Heathrow and Gatwick.

The airlines are blaming staff sickness and recruitment issues, with new staff having to wait up to 15 weeks to pass government security checks.

Rail passengers have also been warned of delays over Easter as Network Rail plans to carry out 530 engineering projects, which will close routes.

Freight lorries and HGVs queuing for miles to get to port of Dover in south-east England. AFP

It is expected to cause chaos for thousands of fans wanting to travel from the north-west England to London's Wembley Stadium for Manchester City's FA Cup semi-final clash with Liverpool FC on Saturday.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp has already criticised the decision not to move the clash to the north of the country due to the transport issues.

London Euston Station, Manchester Piccadilly and Liverpool Lime Street have all tweeted that fans should not travel by train.

On Thursday, those at London St Pancras said there were long queues for services to Europe.

One passenger heading for France said he had waited for over and hour due to staff shortages.

A West Ham fan heading for his side’s Europa League second leg tie against Lyon said there was “carnage” at the station.

To compound the problems, this weekend London's Tube network will also have services suspended for emergency work.

“We're currently inspecting the whole Metropolitan line fleet and will have more certainty of the impact for the weekend in the coming days,” a TfL representative said.

“We are working with the FA on any potential impact to event day services. Travel advice will be communicated ahead of the matches, but customers should check before they travel and consider alternative lines.”

Some fans will struggle to attend London's Wembley Stadium on Saturday as trains are cancelled.  Getty Images

Large queues of lorries have also been forming on roads approaching the port of Dover as ferry services also face disruption.

“All our polling suggests that Good Friday will be the busiest getaway day for Easter trips and staycations,” said Edmund King, president of the AA motoring firm.

“If some drivers can leave on Thursday or early Saturday, they may miss some of the jams.”

The motoring organisation also estimated that with higher fuel prices a 500-mile round trip will see drivers paying £20 ($26) more at the pumps than they did last Easter.

Transport minister Robert Courts said his department is “working closely with operators to minimise disruption” during the break, but advised people to “plan ahead and check for updates from operators”.

Updated: October 14, 2022, 10:04 AM