Travel

Stansted: Train strike hangover causes fresh chaos for passengers as Heathrow issues continue

Hundreds of passengers heading to Stansted Airport were faced with a hangover from the train strike yesterday as they tried to check-in while at Heathrow bags and people are said to be abandoned on runways. 

The ASLEF union strike which caused headaches for travellers yesterday across Greater Anglia services continued to create huge queues into departures from Stansted train station with passenger seen in the midst of giant crowds. 

Passengers are also due to expect fresh woes this week as more flights are set to be cancelled, while airline strikes at Ryanair, EasyJet and SAS are expected to fuel fresh delays in the airline industry. 

Hundreds of British Airways check-in staff are also expected to walkout in a dispute of pay, although a date has not been set for this. 

Today, Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham gave his backing to rail and airport workers going on strike as he sought to downplay his Labour leadership ambitions. 

Staff shortages, issues with baggage handling services and a lack of trained security staff are all contributing to the disruption seen at many of the UK’s major commercial airports this year.

Heathrow and Gatwick have both started pre-emptively cancelling flights, while government officials are reportedly toying with the idea of introducing a surge pricing scheme for planes that operate during peak hours.

In the midst of painful travel for ordinary people, easyJet executives were revealed today to have jetted off to a five-star hotel in Mallorca 

STANSTED AIRPORT: The queues at Stansted train station in Essex on Sunday morning as passengers arrive for their flights

STANSTED AIRPORT: The queues at Stansted train station in Essex on Sunday morning as passengers arrive for their flights

HEATHROW AIRPORT: Craig Lester who is travelling to Shannon, Ireland, said "space is at a premium" at the airport

HEATHROW AIRPORT: Craig Lester who is travelling to Shannon, Ireland, said ‘space is at a premium’ at the airport 

STANSTED AIRPORT: People lie down as there are few places to sit at the airport while waiting out the fresh chaos

STANSTED AIRPORT: People lie down as there are few places to sit at the airport while waiting out the fresh chaos

Andy Burnham backs strike action but downplays leadership ambitions

Andy Burnham has given his backing to rail and airport workers going on strike as he sought to downplay his Labour leadership ambitions.

The Greater Manchester mayor said he supports workers doing what they need to do to protect their incomes during a cost-of-living crisis.

He has also come under pressure from unions to stand up for workers’ rights and support recent industrial action.

About 40,000 RMT members at Network Rail and 13 train operators went on strike last month in a dispute over jobs, pay and conditions, and further action could follow.

Holidaymakers also face chaos at airports this summer as BA staff demand the 10% of pay they had ‘stolen’ from them last year as they faced ‘fire and rehire’ tactics.

Mr Burnham, speaking to the BBC’s Sunday Morning programme, said the Government should ‘stop demonising’ workers who are fighting to protect their incomes, themselves and families from a cost-of-living ‘crisis’.

He said: ‘Nobody in my position should ever, in my view, criticise people for trying to protect their incomes in a cost-of-living crisis, that is absolutely what they should be able to do.

‘They would say, the unions say themselves, that nobody wants to see strikes, but when you’re faced with a Government that is sitting on its hands and doing nothing then strikes become inevitable, and I’m putting to you we don’t want to see that, it requires people getting around the table and sorting this out.’

Pressed if he supported striking rail workers and BA ground staff threatening to strike, Mr Burnham said: ‘I support the rail workers, I support the BA staff, in that they have got to do what they need to do to protect their incomes.’

Asked if he would go on a picket line, Mr Burnham said: ‘I have done, in Greater Manchester, where there were bus workers being victimised with relation to what people call fire and rehire.

‘You’ve got to judge these situations, haven’t you, as to what extent there is a principle at stake and where there’s a principle at stake I have no problem in showing that support.’

Asked if this meant current Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was wrong to say going on a picket line did not show leadership, Mr Burnham replied: ‘I’m not saying that at all, the leader of the Labour Party is in a different position from me, I’m not saying I’m in the same position.

‘There is a balance to be struck always between supporting workers but also helping the public go about their business.

‘What I am saying to you today is the Conservatives are more interested in laying a trap for the Labour leader rather than sorting the issue out.’

On whether he would seek to replace Sir Keir as leader, Mr Burnham said: ‘Firstly, I can’t because the rules don’t allow it, I’m not a member of the parliamentary Labour party.

‘But secondly, there isn’t a vacancy and I don’t expect there to be one.

‘The only reason I’m coming on this programme this morning is to support the leader, to support the Labour Party in taking the fight to the Government.’

 

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Stanstead today saw weary passengers confronted with big queues as soon as they stepped out of the train station. 

And when they arrived at departures to check in there were further issues getting to check in bags while others were seen sleeping on floors in an effort to miss the rush. 

Passengers flying from Heathrow has described the ‘chaos’ and ‘lengthy wait times’ today.

Craig Lester, 49, was travelling to Shannon, Ireland, and said ‘space is at a premium’.

‘There simply is not enough space to queue,’ Mr Lester, a television engineer from north Devon, told the PA news agency. ‘At security it is lengthy wait times. It took me over 90 minutes from walking into the terminal until I eventually got through security. I hate to see what it will look like during school holidays in August.’

While at Heathrow, one passenger was waiting more than 45 minutes on the tarmac for their flight to depart. 

The airport apologised but the transfer traveller complained it was ‘mental’ that this is the one place they passed through with problems. 

Irish airline Aer Lingus also cancelled flights on Saturday and Sunday due to a spike in Covid-19 cases among staff. 

It was also revealed by the Times that easyJet’s top management went to the beach-side five-star Iberostar resort hotel which has rooftop infinity pool and a sunset champagne bar earlier this week. 

On Tuesday, they travelled to Palma while more problems were felt across UK airports by passengers. 

EasyJet said ‘As a pan-European airline with more than half of our flights originating in Europe, it is entirely appropriate for the management board to undertake business meetings around the network as well as regularly travel to our European bases to meet with crew and pilots.

‘The entire management board remains absolutely focused on the daily operation in order to deliver a safe and reliable service for customers this summer.’

Boss of Ryanair Michael O’Leary also told the Financial Times that fares that cost less than a train ticket to the airport are ‘absurd’.

He predicted that flight prices will rise for the next five years as soaring fuel costs and environmental charges take their toll.

Prices on many routes are cheaper than they were a decade ago. But according to a recent report in the US, fares rose 18 per cent in April – the biggest increase since 1963.

O’Leary said he took credit for the era of low- cost flying – pushing down prices with a no-frills service alongside other entrepreneurs such as easyJet’s Stelios Haji-Ioannou.

But he told the Financial Times : ‘It’s too cheap for what it is. I find it absurd every time that I fly to Stansted, the train journey into central London is more expensive than the air fare.

‘It has been my doing [taking prices so low]. I made a lot of money doing it. But ultimately, I don’t believe air travel is sustainable over the medium term at an average fare of €40 (£34). It’s too cheap at that. But I think, you know, it will still be very cheap and affordable at €50 and €60.’

Thousands of travellers heading through Heathrow yesterday were also left to endure flights delayed due to a fuelling issue. 

A ‘technical fault’ with the airport’s Jet A-1 fuel system shortly before 2pm meant dozens of outbound planes were unable to leave the tarmac for over an hour at the UK’s busiest travel hub on Saturday. 

The malfunction meant thousands of holidaymakers were left in the lurch and forced to wait for hours at departure gates or on board their flights, and is the latest in a long line of mishaps to hit Britain’s airports this year.

Dozens of frustrated passengers took to Twitter to vent their disappointment with the latest cruel blow to their holiday plans, while others fumed that they would miss transfers and connecting flights owing to the error.  

The delay hits passengers just days before the UK’s summer holiday season is expected to ramp up, with millions of passengers bracing for disruption as travel bosses tell airlines to cancel more flights while aviation experts have shared fears over an extended period of ‘Airmageddon’.

STANSTE AIRPORT: Today's pictures show the busy airport in Essex on Sunday morning as the travel chaos continues

STANSTE AIRPORT: Today’s pictures show the busy airport in Essex on Sunday morning as the travel chaos continues

A Heathrow spokesman said of the delays: ‘A technical fault with the airport’s fuelling system has now been resolved.

‘We are working with all airport partners to minimise disruption, however flights out of Heathrow this afternoon may be subject to delays. We apologise for any impact this has on people’s journeys.’

While inbound flights remained unaffected by Heathrow’s fuelling issues, passengers due to depart from the London airport faced disarray.  

Saturday’s chaos comes as tens of thousands of travellers going through the UK’s busiest airport could have their holiday plans disrupted next week as bosses prepare to tell airlines to cancel more flights.

Heathrow Airport is set to tell airlines they will have to move or cancel flights next week, just days after it cancelled 30 services at short notice to the fury of passengers, many of whom found out only after reaching the airport.

The cancellations came after bosses at the airport told airlines that staff in the terminals could not cope with the number of travellers who were expected during the morning peak.

And a further wave of cancellations is set to be announced by Friday, July 8, just as some schools break up for the summer holidays.

Passengers at the airport had complained of long queues, cancelled flights and lost baggage earlier this week as ‘schedule intervention’ and disruptions at UK airports were exacerbated by strikes in Spain. 

It is expected that BA, which uses Terminal 5 at Heathrow as its hub and has more than 9,000 scheduled flights from the airport in July, will be the most affected airline by the upcoming cancellations, the Telegraph reports.

The paper reports the cancellations are being caused by an amnesty on take-off and landing slots. 

Airlines pay millions of pounds for these time slots and often run flights half empty to ensure they meet targets for the minimum number of flights in the slot – if they do not do this, they have to give it back.

The amnesty, which was announced by the Department for Transport (DfT) earlier this week, allows carriers to hand them back if they are not confident they can operate the service for the rest of the summer season, while retaining the slot for next year.

This is was a bid to ensure cancellations, like those seen on Thursday at Heathrow and earlier in the year during the Easter and half-term holidays, do not happen at the last minute and give passengers time to rebook. 

A spokesperson for British Airways told the PA news agency that the slot amnesty and consequent cancellations will ‘help us to provide the certainty our customers deserve by making it easier to consolidate some of our quieter daily flights to multi-frequency destinations well in advance’. 

They said that the airline ‘welcomes these new measures’, adding: ‘Slot alleviation allows airlines to temporarily reduce their schedules but still retain their slots for the next year to maintain networks and provide consumers with certainty and consistency. 

‘Allocating slots according to the (World Airport Slots Guide system) means airlines can offer the consistent services and efficient connections that consumers are looking for and protect jobs and create growth in the UK.’ 

A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘We encourage airlines to take this opportunity to reconsider their summer schedules without penalty and inform passengers as early as possible of any changes.’

Passengers at Heathrow arrived at the airport on Thursday to find travel misery as flights were cancelled overnight. Pictured are two passengers waiting with their luggage at Terminal 5

Passengers at Heathrow arrived at the airport on Thursday to find travel misery as flights were cancelled overnight. Pictured are two passengers waiting with their luggage at Terminal 5

A group of travellers sits down in Terminal 5 while waiting for their flight. At least 5,000 passengers woke up on Thursday to find their flights cancelled or delayed

A group of travellers sits down in Terminal 5 while waiting for their flight. At least 5,000 passengers woke up on Thursday to find their flights cancelled or delayed

Train strikes spark travel chaos at Stansted as hundreds wait to board services after drivers walked out in pay dispute 

A train drivers’ strike has caused chaos for travellers trying to get to and from Stansted airport today, with huge queues forming outside the terminal as hundreds waited for services.

Rail operator Greater Anglia cancelled more than 90 per cent of its services today after workers from the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers and Firemen (ASLEF) walked out in a dispute over pay. 

The union has been calling for pay rise for its members amid the ongoing cost-of-living crisis that has seen household bills soar and inflation hit its highest level for decades.

The 24-hour walkout forced the closure of all regional and branch rail routes, as well as almost all trains in and out of London, with those that are running doing so on a severely reduced basis.

It caused misery for travellers, with no rail replacement buses available for trains cancelled by the strikes, while those rail services that were available were busier than normal. 

At Stansted Airport hundreds of people were seeing queuing outside the terminal as they tried to board reduced rail services and busier than normal buses.  

 

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On Thursday thousands of passengers at Heathrow were left furious as their flights were cancelled or delayed at the last minute. 

In a rare ‘schedule intervention’, the airport told its 20 biggest carriers they would have to move 30 flights from the morning peak.

It was a move that meant at least 5,000 travellers woke up to find their flights affected or even cancelled, with the airport saying it would not be able to cope with the high number of passengers in its terminals.

People at the airport took to social media to vent at what they saw as poor service at the London travel hub.

‘Total chaos at Heathrow this morning,’ one tweeted, ‘BA flights cancelled and zero customer service!’

Another branded Terminal 5 a ‘disgraceful shambles’, adding: ‘Left home at 3.30am, checked flight and cancelled on arrival.’

‘We are expecting higher passenger numbers in the morning peak than the airport currently has capacity to serve, and so to keep everyone safe we have asked airlines to remove 30 flights from the morning peak,’ a spokesman for the airport said on Thursday

‘We will work with airlines to get affected passengers rebooked on to other flights outside of the peak so that as many as possible can get away tomorrow, and we apologise for the impact this has on travel plans.’

One passenger travelling through Heathrow has described the scene at baggage claim as looking like ‘a disaster movie’.

Adam Kent, 59, had arrived at Terminal 3 from Orlando, Florida, and said the sight ‘made a horrendous first impression of chaos’ for international visitors.

The Government’s 22-point plan to avoid airport chaos

The Government ha unveiled a 22-point plan to tackle flight disruption this summer.

The strategy is aimed at avoiding a repeat of the chaos seen at UK airports during the Easter and Jubilee holidays.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there is ‘no excuse for widespread disruption’ and holidaymakers ‘deserve certainty’.

Tens of thousands of passengers have suffered flight cancellations and huge queues at airports in recent months.

Demand for travel will surge again as schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland break up for summer this week, while the academic year for those in England and Wales ends in around three weeks.

The Government’s action plan includes a number of measures previously announced, such as encouraging airlines to make sure their schedule are ‘deliverable’, an amnesty on slot rules and permitting new aviation workers to begin training before passing security checks.

A new passenger charter will be published in the coming weeks, providing passengers with a ‘one-stop guide’ informing them of their rights and what they can expect from airports and airlines when flying.

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‘(There was) lost luggage everywhere, stacked between baggage belts everyone stepping over it and no-one doing anything about it,’ Mr Kent, from Worcestershire, told the PA news agency.

‘Being brutally honest, it looks like a serious health and safety issue.

‘No-one visible on the ground to explain the carnage or sort out the mess, it seems like lots of luggage has not arrived with passengers and just been dumped.’

Mr Kent added it was ‘appalling customer service’ at the airport.

‘Staff (were) nowhere to be seen, everyone was pretty shocked,’ he said.

‘The left and abandoned luggage was left unsecured and could easily be stolen … No duty of care shown to passengers’ possessions.’

Heathrow was first plunged into chaos in March as bosses struggled to hire enough workers amid widespread labour shortages in Britain.

And the situation risks worsening as British Airway staff are also threatening to strike, after unions rejected a 10 per cent pay offer in favour of walkouts as early as next month, potentially during the school holidays.

The Civil Aviation Authority said: ‘Although most airlines will book you on to another of their flights to the same destination, if an alternative airline is flying there significantly sooner or other suitable modes of transport are available, then you may have the right to be booked on to that alternative transport instead.’ 

In response to the ongoing issues, the Government unveiled a 22-point plan to tackle flight disruption this summer in a bid to avoid a repeat of travel chaos seen at airports during the Easter and Jubilee holidays.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said there is ‘no excuse for widespread disruption’ and holidaymakers ‘deserve certainty’.

The Government’s action plan includes a number of measures previously announced, such as encouraging airlines to make sure their schedule are ‘deliverable’, an amnesty on slot rules and permitting new aviation workers to begin training before passing security checks.

Train drivers’ strike causes more chaos 

A train company is advising people not to travel on its services today because of a strike by drivers in a dispute over pay.

Greater Anglia said more than 90 per cent of its services will not run because of a 24-hour walkout by members of Aslef, affecting leisure travellers and fans going to concerts by Adele and Guns N’ Roses.

There will be no regional or branch line services and other services will be dramatically reduced.

The company said there will be no Greater Anglia trains between Cambridge North, Cambridge and London Liverpool Street, with the Norwich-London Liverpool Street intercity service limited to six trains in each direction across the whole day, with the last train back to Norwich at 9.30pm.

The Colchester-London Liverpool Street and Stansted Express services will also have reduced hours and significantly fewer trains, with later start and earlier finish times than normal.

There will be no rail replacement buses to replace trains not running because of the strikes.

Sunday services will start later in the morning than usual as the 24-hour strike has a knock-on effect into the next day.

Music fans travelling to a Guns N’ Roses concert at Tottenham Hotspur’s stadium will not be able to get to the venue or back on Greater Anglia trains.

The strike will also affect people travelling to see Adele at Hyde Park on Saturday, who are also advised to make alternative arrangements.

Jamie Burles, Greater Anglia managing director, said: ‘Please avoid travelling on our trains this Saturday. Unfortunately, with our drivers on strike, it’s only possible to run a heavily reduced service and only on some routes.

‘We can’t replace all the trains not running due to the strike, with rail replacement buses, so it will just be an extremely limited train service running on Saturday, so we strongly advise passengers to make alternative arrangements.

‘We are very sorry for the disruption this strike causes our customers. We know that many of our customers will have been looking forward to travelling on Saturday to see family and friends, for days out to the coast, for holidays and for the many concerts and sporting events in London.

‘Work is continuing at an industry level to try to resolve the dispute as soon as possible.’

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Announcing the plan in the Commons on Thursday, Mr Shapps said: ‘We appreciate the airports are busy as they recover, but the very last thing we want to see repeated are the scenes that we saw at Easter and half term.

‘So, let me stress, there is absolutely no excuse for further widespread disruption.

‘It’s now more than 100 days since we announced easing of travel restrictions, but to further support the industry as it prepares for the summer, today I’m announcing a 22-point plan with a written ministerial statement to this House to help recruit, retain staff, improve resilience, so that passenger disruption this summer is minimised.

‘And to make sure that if delays do unfortunately occur, travellers get properly compensated.’

However, Labour’s shadow transport minister Mike Kane accused Mr Shapps of being ‘missing in action’ when it comes to aviation.

Mr Kane said: ‘He is missing in action when it comes to aviation. Now, he has mentioned the chaos between Easter and the Jubilee weekend. He did not hold one meeting with aviation bosses during that time.

‘Now EasyJet have announced among others that they could cancel 10,000 flights in the next three months.

‘He needs to step up to the plate, he needs to go to the Prime Minister, he needs to knock on the door, and he needs to clean up the mess.’

Labour peer Lord Woodley, former joint-general secretary of Unite the union, said BA needs to reverse a pandemic pay cut to sort the ongoing airport delays.

He said: ‘The recent airport delays are undoubtedly as a direct result of the opportunism employed by BA slashing jobs, pay and conditions during the pandemic.

‘And now, unfortunately, we can all see that the chickens are indeed coming home to roost, with many airlines too slow to rehire and (restore) wages that were stolen from staff under the cover of Covid.

‘However, I am pleased to tell the House that thanks to my union Unite members, members working for CAE cabin crew have now secured an 18% pay rise, yes an 18% pay rise and a £1,200 summer bonus.’

It was announced that 150 Heathrow-based cabin crew employed by CAE Crewing Service had secured an 18% pay rise, reversing its pandemic cut and even improving on its pre-pandemic rate.

It comes amid fears of a ‘Summer of discontent’ as unions threaten to bring the UK to a halt over the next couple of months.

In June the country was hit with the largest rail strike in decades when 50,000 members of the RMT union walked out in a dispute over pay and conditions. 

The three separate days of strikes causes travel misery, with hundreds of train services cancelled and many rail operators left running reduced services. 

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, did not rule out further strikes in the summer, while there have also been suggestions teachers could vote to go on strike.

Travellers in East Anglia are being hit hard after train drivers from the Aslef union walked out for 24 hours today in its pay dispute with operator, Greater Anglia.

The company said more than 90 per cent of its trains that had been scheduled for today have been cancelled affecting services into London, to Stansted Airport and regional and branch services.


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