More travel chaos as 'fuel issue' halts Heathrow departures and more flights axed

2 July 2022, 09:17 | Updated: 2 July 2022, 17:11

Holidaymakers were met with huge queues at three UK airports yesterday
Holidaymakers were met with huge queues at three UK airports yesterday. Picture: PA/Twitter @AndyW606/ Alamy

By Megan Hinton

Thousands of holidaymakers faced further chaos on Saturday as a 'fuel issue' prevented planes from departing Heathrow.

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A technical problem with the airport's fuelling system just before 2pm left several flights unable to take off from the UK's busiest airport.

It left thousands of holidaymakers waiting in the airport or even in the stranded planes.

Brits were already facing uncertainty amid plans to axe more flights next week - just as the school holidays get under way.

Airlines flying out of Heathrow are rushing to rework their flight schedules, it is understood.

According to the Telegraph, airlines using Heathrow have until Friday to inform the airport of their new flight schedules, just as schools begin breaking up for the summer holidays.

British Airways had previously planned to carry 1.8 million passengers across more than 9,000 flights from Heathrow during July alone.

Read more: 'Disorganised hell': Chaos at UK airports as holidaymakers face 3-hour security queues

Heathrow has said it welcomes changes to flight schedules, saying that the cancellations, triggered by an amnesty on take-off and landing slots, 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"

British Airways said slot alleviation - which are allocated twice a year at airports - would help BA to "protect more of our holiday flights".

"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," BA said in a statement.

"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."

Holidaymakers were met with huge queues at major UK airports again yesterday.

Passengers hoping to jet off ahead of the weekend have experienced long queues, cancelled flights, lost luggage and strikes, but the mayhem is only set to get worse as the school summer holidays near.

Angry travellers have taken to social media to share snaps of snaking queues in Heathrow where 30 flights were cancelled on Thursday.

Similar photographs were also shared from Stansted and Manchester airports where passengers were jam packed from the security line to the terminal.

Passengers reported waiting for over an hour to drop off their luggage and were met with even longer queues of more than three hours to pass through airport security.

Flights from Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris and other French airports faced disruption on Friday as airport workers went on strike to demand salary rises to keep up with inflation and a recruitment drive to deal with resurgent travel demand.

France's civil aviation authority said 17% of scheduled flights out of Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports in Paris were cancelled between 7am and 2pm Friday, primarily short-haul routes.

Read more: BA forced to apologise after website refuses to accept woman using the title Doctor

The walkout at French Air Traffic Control centre in Marseille also brought disruption for UK holidaymakers travelling to Italy and Spain.

Ryanair staff in Spain are set to strike this week at the airline's bases, including Madrid, Malaga, Barcelona, Alicante, Sevilla, Palma, Valencia, Girona, Santiago de Compostela and Ibiza. 

Hundreds of EasyJet workers will also strike in Barcelona, Malaga and Palma amid a pay row.

On Thursday, a 22-point plan to tackle flight disruption this summer was unveiled by the UK Government.

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.

Read more: Police warn of travel disruption over plans for M4 roadblock over fuel prices

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.

Since the disruption during the Jubilee half-term, ministers and officials have been meeting with the aviation industry weekly to discuss the summer plans and issues that could cause problems this summer.

Mr Shapps said: "Holidaymakers deserve certainty ahead of their first summer getaways free of travel restrictions.

"While it's never going to be possible to avoid every single delay or cancellation, we've been working closely with airports and airlines to make sure they are running realistic schedules.

"The 22 measures we've published today set out what we're doing to support the industry.

"It's now on airports and airlines to commit to running the flights they've promised or cancel them with plenty of time to spare so we can avoid the kind of scenes we saw at Easter and half-term.

"With 100 days having passed since we set out that restrictions would be eased, there's simply no excuse for widespread disruption."

Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, said: "We share Government's ambitions for resolving the travel issues that we've seen in previous months.

"These actions will help the sector to be more resilient in dealing with strong consumer demand.

"We will work alongside Government and the wider industry to help deliver a better experience for passengers."

Rocio Concha, Which? director of policy and advocacy, said: "Another day of chaos at the UK's biggest airport suggests the government's working groups and written warnings to airlines and airports are not yet having the desired effect - and many passengers will understandably be concerned that this plan may not be enough to prevent a summer of travel disruption.

"Passengers have been treated appallingly during recent months. With the holiday plans of millions of people at stake, the government and aviation regulator must show they can get a grip on this situation and ensure airports and airlines meet their legal obligations to the travelling public in the busy weeks ahead.

"The shameful scenes at UK airports show why passengers need their rights to be strengthened and enforced by a strong regulator and compensation regime.

"The government should give the CAA powers to fine airlines directly when they flout the law, and drop plans to cut passenger compensation for delayed and cancelled domestic flights."