Covid: Travellers complain of queues and ‘chaos’ at airports as thousands jet off for summer

Long queues at Heathrow check-in have caused chaos for travellers jetting off this summer. Credit: PA/Fiona Brett

Travellers have complained about “total chaos” at airports with hundreds of thousands of people jetting off as schools close and summer holidays begin for millions.

Airports and airlines are expecting their busiest weekend of the year, with Heathrow Airport expecting to welcome about 128,000 passengers on Saturday and Sunday, down from pre-pandemic daily volumes of around 230,000 to 260,000 in July 2019.

Its chief executive John Holland-Kaye said additional staff would be on hand to ensure passengers have a “smooth journey”.

But Fiona Brett, a violinist travelling to Frankfurt with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, said she had to queue for two hours to check in to her flight from London Heathrow on Saturday morning.

Ms Brett, from Watlington, Oxfordshire, said she had checked in online but then had to show her Covid vaccination certificate to staff, adding that the “total chaos” resulted in her 9.30am flight being delayed.

“They were constantly calling people out of the queue for the next flight that was closing,” she said.

“Actually it would have been better to turn up at 8.30 and get called from the back of the queue to the front – total chaos.

“When I finally managed to check in (15 mins after the flight should have closed) the security queues were non existent and there was virtually no one airside in the terminal.

“I believe the queues were caused not by too many people but by the airlines having to do all the extra checks before properly checking in.”

Other passengers took to social media to complain about queues at London Stansted, with one describing the scenes as “chaotic”.

Twitter user Dr Robert Baunsbak Coull said: “@Ryanair totally unacceptable scenes at Stanstead Airport with total lack of staff on the ground, queues of lost passengers and chaotic scenes. #superspreader #covid19.”

Another Twitter user, Lily McMyn, posted images of crowds of people and added: “@STN_Airport shocking, chaos and bedlam.”

Manchester Airports Group said it is expecting 958 flights at Manchester Airport from Friday to Monday, 224 at East Midlands Airport and 1,330 at London Stansted.

This is up from the 632, 177 and 735 respectively during the same weekend last year, but still well below the 2,512 at Manchester, 503 at East Midlands and 2,139 at London Stansted in July 2019.

Meanwhile Gatwick Airport said it expects to see around 250 to 260 flights and between 25,000 to 27,000 passengers a day over the weekend, up from a low of just 15 flights a day at the height of the pandemic.

The airport said flight numbers are still far below the 950 per day at this time of year pre-Covid.


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A spokesman said: “Our passengers are now able to choose from flights to more than 100 destinations in over 30 countries so we’re expecting our busiest weekend of the year so far.

“We will handle over 250 each day, with locations in Spain and Greece particularly popular.”

Airline easyJet said it is preparing to carry more than 135,000 passengers this weekend from the UK on over 80 routes to green and amber-list destinations across Europe.

In total there will be 251 easyJet flights taking to the skies, with popular destinations including Malta, Madeira, Malaga in Spain, Faro and Lisbon in Portugal, and Corfu and Athens in Greece, the airline added.

Green and amber list travel: What you need to know

What does it mean when a country is on the green list?

It's important to note that just because a country is on the UK's green list, it doesn't necessarily mean the country is accepting UK citizens - Australia being one example - so check with the relevant country's government website for their latest rules on tourist arrivals.

People who are travelling to countries on the green list will need to take a Covid test up to 72 hours before they return to the UK and a single PCR test on or before day two of their arrival into the UK - but you do not need to quarantine unless the test result is positive.Children aged four and under are exempt from the test.

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What countries are on the green list?

From 4am on Monday 30 August, the Azores, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania and Switzerland will be added to the green list. These are the other countries already on the list:

  • Australia

  • Austria

  • Brunei

  • Bulgaria,

  • Caribbean Islands (Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, British Indian Ocean Territory, Barbados, Dominica, Granada, Cayman Islands, Montserrat, Turks and Caicos Islands)

  • Croatia

  • Falkland Islands

  • Faroe Islands

  • Germany

  • Gibraltar

  • Hong Kong

  • Iceland

  • Israel and Jerusalem

  • Latvia

  • Malta

  • Madeira

  • New Zealand

  • Norway

  • Romania

  • Singapore

  • Slovakia

  • Slovenia

  • South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands

  • St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha

  • Taiwan

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What countries are on the amber list?

No countries are being added to the amber list as part of the traffic light list changes coming into effect on Monday 30 August.There are currently more than 130 other countries on the amber list, including popular holiday destinations such as Spain, Portugal and Italy. The full list of amber list countries can be found on the UK government website.

What does it mean when a country is on the amber list?

If you're over 18 and not had two Covid vaccinations, on arrival in the UK from amber list countries you need to:

  • take a Covid test up to 72 hours before you return to the UK

  • quarantine for 10 days

  • take a test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8 after arriving in the UK.

However, if you've been fully vaccinated in the UK or under 18, you don't need to quarantine or take a day 8 test after you get back, but you still need to take a test on or before day 2 after arriving. You must have had your final dose of the vaccine at least 14 whole days before the date you arrive in England to be considered as fully vaccinated under the amber list rules.

Separate to these rules for UK citizens, since 2 August people fully vaccinated in the USA or most European countries will not need to quarantine if they have been in an amber list country in the 10 days before arriving. They will still need to take a test on or before day 2 after arriving.

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Tui said it has almost double the number of passengers travelling Friday to Sunday compared to last weekend, with the Balearics and Greece the “clear favourites” and Palma, Ibiza and Rhodes the most popular destinations.

Jet2 said it has 170 flights departing to more than 40 destinations over the weekend, up from around 70 to six places the previous weekend.

Spain is the UK’s most popular foreign holiday destination Credit: Lauren Hurley/PA

Since May, quarantine and testing requirements have been determined by whether a person is entering the UK from a green, amber or red list location.

Travellers returning from a green destination are not required to self-isolate, but only a handful of major European summer hotspots are in that tier.

Spain, Italy and Greece are among the countries on the amber list.

Those returning from an amber country must quarantine at home for 10 days unless they have had both doses of a coronavirus vaccine.