Tens of thousands of British travellers are stranded at airports across Europe after an estimated 200 flights were cancelled over the weekend.
More than 100 flights to and from the UK were cancelled on Saturday as a result of staff shortages and air-traffic-control restrictions.
So far today, dozens more have been grounded, including around 40 by easyJet, with other airlines including Wizz Air and British Airways also cancelling flights. Gatwick airport, whose main airline is easyJet, is among the worst affected.
Many of those stranded are families trying to get back after spending the half-term holiday in destinations such as Corfu, Sardinia and Sicily. Thousands of British holidaymakers were due to return on Saturday, and are still trying to organise alternative ways to get home.
While the majority of flights are still operating, they are very heavily loaded. At Bristol, at least a dozen easyJet flights are cancelled, with most passengers being given just a few hours’ notice. Destinations include Malaga, Lisbon and Berlin.
Alexander Coombs told The Independent: “I have received a text message saying my flight has been cancelled from Berlin to Bristol today so I am now stranded in Berlin.
“I cannot get hold of anyone to help me from easyJet. Any ideas on how I can get help? The next flight is Thursday! I am trying to look for other flights to a different airport in the UK but there doesn’t seem to be any today either?”
British Airways has cancelled on average more than 100 flights per day for the past several weeks, drastically reducing the number of available seats to and from the UK.
There have been eight further cancellations at Luton on easyJet, and one at Manchester.
Luton airport’s arrival air navigation system was out of use for several hours early on Sunday, with at least 18 flights diverted – mostly on Wizz Air, which is also grounding some of its flights from Gatwick and Doncaster Sheffield.
Kam Hosseini is in Faro in Portugal after his Saturday evening Wizz Air flight to Cardiff was grounded “minutes before check-in by text message”.
He said: “No representative from the airline at the airport, just given a piece of paper and told the next flights to the UK we can get on are Wednesday onwards. Stuck in Faro and no sign of any flights anytime soon.”
While alternative airlines can be used, and the cost charged to the cancelling airline, for many passengers the alternatives are difficult to find in light of the wholesale cancellations over the past week. All passengers are entitled to alternative flights as soon as possible, including on a rival airline; a hotel room until they can travel; and, if the airline is responsible for the cancellation, cash compensation.
Passengers hoping to return from Paris to London on Eurostar trains also face a day of disruption. The Channel Tunnel rail operator said: “Due to a problem with the overhead power supply near Paris, our services to/from Paris are subject to delays and cancellations. Please don’t come to the station unless you have a ticket to travel.”
At least three afternoon trains have been cancelled, and others are subject to long delays.
“We strongly urge [passengers] NOT to travel today and to postpone to alternative date,” Eurostar later tweeted.