And they have warned that the disruption to travelers at airports could also affect Christmas and ski travel – with thousands of job openings for staff, flight crew and baggage handler going unfilled until next year amid the hiring slump.
The chaos has led some people to give up summer trips abroad, with internet searches for “cancel my flight” nearly tripling in recent weeks, data analysis from Google shows.
It means many people are looking at another “staycation” summer, with bookings at some resorts – such as Weymouth in Dorset, where tourists enjoyed a sunny day on the coast yesterday – rising since the travel chaos began.
British Airways has already canceled 8,000 flights in the summer season until October.
About 500,000 passengers will face canceling their 11 a.m. summer break during the six-week break if short-term airline cancellations are comparable to half-term.
Flight data company Cirium said about 100,000 people have canceled Jubilee week trips — some within minutes.
Holidaymakers wishing to travel to the mainland on Eurostar trains are also faced with paying full price as much cheaper presale tickets have sold out.
Rory Boland, travel editor for consumer group Which?, warned: “We’re seeing widespread chaos at airports and enormous stress for people planning to get away – but we haven’t peaked.”
And Mike Clancy, of the airport workers union Prospect, added: “It would be hard to give anyone confidence that we will be all right by the July school holidays. Cancellations are damaging.”
With many of the 30,000 jobs cut during the pandemic at airlines and airports across the UK still unfilled, even Christmas travel is facing disruptions, with Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye predicting “it will take 12 to 18 months.” It will take time for the industry to fully restore capacity.”
Manchester and Gatwick have been hardest hit by disruption, but long queues have also been reported at other airports.
EasyJet is canceling about 30 flights a day and TUI is canceling 200 flights this month.
With at least five million passengers checking baggage, further stressful queues and delays on both outbound and return journeys are expected.
And tens of thousands of vacationers face the nightmare scenario of their plane taking off without them, as they cannot make it through the airport queues in time to reach the departure gate.
Which? has also criticized airlines’ treatment of travelers after a passenger at Gatwick saw his Vueling flight take off without him and his two children, ages six and seven, having run off at check-in.
They had to spend the night at the airport while waiting for a new flight.
Juan Boga, 50, from Hillingdon, north London, said: “The airline staff assured us that the plane would not take off because all the passengers were queuing up. It was still taking off.
“My kids then went 1:00 PM without food or water offered by the airline.”
Mr Boland said: “Airlines are showing an arrogant approach to customers by ignoring passenger rights.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps meets with airline chiefs to tackle the crisis.
Mr Shapps said: “We will be working very hard with the industry between now and the summer.”