A family missed their flight to Barcelona earlier this week amid Manchester Airport’s chaotic queues – disrupting a carefully planned ruby wedding anniversary trip that had already been delayed for two years.
Mike Turner and husband Luke Harbottle were travelling to Barcelona with Mike’s parents Tom and Marie, who were celebrating 40 years of marriage.
Having paid £630 for the initial plane tickets, the group missed their flight and were forced to fork out £614 more for outbound Vueling tickets to the Spanish city.
“It just felt like this trip we’d been planning for years for my mum and dad, with a nice hotel and tickets for the Sagrada Familia, was scuppered by something that wasn’t our fault,” Mike told Manchester Evening News.
“It was already two years late because of Covid. I did really feel for the staff, the woman at the gate was very apologetic but said the plane had to go and the pilot couldn’t wait any longer. Our bags had been taken off.”
The family had arrived at Manchester Airport’s terminal one at 4am, two hours before their 6.05 take-off time as advised by easyJet (the airport is now advising passengers to arrive three hours earlier).
He says that there were unusually long, snaking queues for both check-in and security at the beleaguered airport, at which customers have been complaining of two- to four-hour queues over the past week.
It took them an hour of their two-hour window just to check in bags. Meanwhile, at the security scanners, they were forced to join the end of a line which stretched outside of the terminal.
Mike believes the delays were were made worse by people with later flights arriving 4-5 hours early, having heard about the disruption, and clogging up the queues.
“There were so many people that queues were crossing over each other. Nobody was telling anybody where to go. It looked like people working there were trying their hardest but there just weren’t enough of them,” says Mike.
He later found out that staff had been broadcasting calls for those departing around 6.30am to come forward, but this was not audible outside of the terminal, where they had been queuing.
“It meant we didn’t find out our flights had been prioritised for faster security until we got into the building, and by that time they were also prioritising flights leaving later so we were told to join another queue with all those people in too,” says Mike.
Once they reached the scanners, everything ground to a halt once more as staff tried to find a security officer to search a bag that had been pulled aside.
“We told them our flight was supposed to leave five minutes ago but they didn’t do anything. There was no manager to search the bag so we all just had to wait. All these things were happening where if they just had enough people trained in advance we probably would have got there in time. There were just so many things that stopped us on the way.”
During the confusion after the missed flight, Mike says he chatted to other passengers who’d missed flights to Croatia and Mallorca due to queues at security.
As well as losing out on the flight fare – airlines do not compensate passengers for missing flights due to long airport queues – due to their delayed arrival, the family missed a specially planned day trip they’d booked for the first day.
On Tuesday, Manchester Airport’s managing director Karen Smart resigned amid the travel chaos, while Manchester City mayor Andy Burnham warned that the queuing situation could continue for two months.
A spokesperson for Manchester Airports Group told The Independent: “We apologise to passengers whose experience at Manchester Airport in recent days has fallen short of the standard they expected.
“Our industry is facing challenges in scaling operations back up very quickly after the removal of Covid restrictions, which have done immense damage to our sector over the past two years.
“We are actively recruiting for hundreds of new roles in areas including security, but are advising passengers that due to a shortage of staff, they may have to wait for longer than they are used to in the coming weeks, and that they should arrive at the earliest time recommended by their airline.
“We are aware all parts of the aviation industry are facing similar challenges, and this can impact other parts of the airport experience, such as check-in and baggage reclaim. That is why we are committed to working with our partners to ensure the end-to-end experience is as smooth as it can be during the period of recovery.”