Heathrow airport shutdown marks start of biggest bank holiday rush since 2019

As millions of families start their part-time week and many more start bank holiday weekends, travel in and out of the UK seems to be in turmoil.

The AA said 17 million drivers will take to the roads, while British Airways has canceled a further 60 flights to and from London Heathrow.

Even taking canceled flights into account, due to an IT issue, Friday has to be the busiest day to fly from the UK since before the Covid pandemic.

More than 3,000 flight departures are expected, carrying around half a million passengers

By noon on Friday, the number of “on-the-day” cancellations of British Airways short-haul flights to and from Heathrow had risen to 60.

BA has suspended several departures to and from major holiday destinations, including four flights between Heathrow and Athens and six to and from Nice.

Geneva and Milan also had six cancellations each. Edinburgh commuters have seen a dozen flights to and from Heathrow grounded in the last 24 hours.

BA must buy tickets on rival airlines for disrupted passengers to get them to their destinations on the same day as the original booking, if space is available. But at the beginning of the half-day week for many schools and at the bank holiday weekend, few places are available.

BA’s cancellations are not on the scale of the bank holiday at the end of May 2017, when another IT glitch led to the suspension of all operations by the airline at Heathrow and Gatwick. But the cost in lost revenue, hotel costs and passenger compensation will run into many millions of pounds.

Partly due to British Airways cancellations, the second day of the security strike at Terminal 5, BA’s main base, is having little effect.

At other major airports, travel has been smooth sailing – with the main issue at Manchester, Edinburgh and Glasgow being BA flight cancellations to and from Heathrow.

Employees working at Edinburgh Airport have voted strongly in favor of a strike over wages, but no class action has yet been called.

The Unite union clearly hopes airport bosses will come back with an improved offer – but warns of summer “travel chaos” if a shutdown occurs. The airport says it has already made a “fair and generous” remuneration proposal.

In Dover, where the first weekend of the Easter school holidays was marred by long delays for buses traveling to France, contingency plans appear to be working. Buses are being driven away from the main port, but once they reach the French border, checks are processed quickly.

The port says private cars face an hour-long wait for passport checks. After Brexit, a strict EU border was imposed at the port, with all British travelers required to have their passports inspected and stamped.

Truck traffic is being controlled to limit tourist delays.

With good weather forecast, the RAC is telling drivers to prepare for “the busiest end-May bank holiday since 2019”.

According to traffic analyst Inrix, there could be severe delays on major routes.

  • On Friday, the busiest times are expected to be from 11am to 2pm, with the M5 between Bristol and Taunton likely to see particularly heavy traffic.
  • On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the roads will be busiest between 2pm and 7pm. The M25 will be under pressure, especially counter-clockwise from Junction 4 to Dartford Crossing.
  • The M6 ​​in Cheshire and Lancashire is expected to be busy on Sunday afternoon.

The latest round of national rail strikes will ruin the second half of the semester week.

From Wednesday, May 31 to Saturday, June 3, train drivers belonging to Aslef and other rail workers belonging to the RMT and working for more than a dozen rail operators will again withdraw in their long and bitter dispute over wages and conditions. of work.

Both unions say strikes could continue through the summer.

Transport services to Wales and Scotrail are not affected.

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