Travelling this Easter? You might want to get to the airport earlier than usual

Apr 1, 2022

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As airports brace themselves for a stampede of holidaymakers looking to get away over the Easter hols, passengers have been warned to arrive early for flights if they want to avoid travel chaos.

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The Airport Operators Association (AOA) has told fliers to expect longer check-in waits and to make sure they have all their COVID-19 related documents ahead of any trips over the holiday period. Which may sound like your dad talking, but in actual fact could be some of the soundest advice you’ll receive this year…

The coming Easter break will be one of the first real tests for airlines and airports as travel bounces back from the pandemic. In recent weeks cracks are already starting to appear as airports struggle to cope with increased demand following job losses – caused by both cuts and workers leaving for other industries during the pandemic.

AOA chief executive Karen Dee told the BBC that passengers “may not have the AOA experience they are used to” during this hectic period, adding that its members had been frantically trying to fill vacancies but had struggled due to recruitment issues and COVID-19 related staff absences.

Related: Travel is back but are UK airports actually ready?

It’s since become a national concern, too, says Dee, whose team is partnering “with the U.K. government to resolve any delays in the necessary checks before staff can start work.”

On top of EU nationals leaving the U.K. after Brexit, it’s been a hard slog to attract travel workers back to an industry that suffered brutal losses during the height of the pandemic. Kevin O’Reilly, managing director of aviation recruitment firm One Resourcing, also told the BBC about the challenges of hiring ground staff: “It’s always been a tough market to recruit for, but it’s become harder this year.

Photo by: Jason Alden/Bloomberg via Getty Images

 

“A huge number of people left the aviation industry due to the pandemic and whilst many have come back, many have found alternative positions in other sectors and do not want to risk returning to work in an industry that made them redundant. Now there’s a bounce-back from having no people travelling to suddenly everyone wanting to travel.”

Related: Travel is back but are UK airports actually ready?

He also cited the fact that airport recruitment is tougher than most industries due to the security vetting process to get airside passes. Although, to Heathrow at least, it could take up to six months to train enough new staff to bring business back to normal. “Robust security checks required to work at an airport means this can take between 3-6 months from recruitment to starting to work,” a spokesperson told TPG UK earlier this week.

The bottom line for travellers over Easter is to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

(Photo by izusek/Getty Images)

The warning also comes just days after thousands of passengers suffered delays and cancellations due to further British Airways IT issues – including Heathrow Terminal 5, which had snaking queues, backed up luggage and arrivals left on the tarmac for up to two hours.

Currently, all U.K airports advise arriving for international flights around two hours before take-off, so you may want to add an extra hour on top of that at the very least, or else risk being one of those poor souls breathlessly running for the gate.

And nobody wants to be that person.

Featured image by Tim Ireland/Xinhua via Getty Images

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