Passengers faced long queues at London’s busiest airport as the airline industry faced another day of chaos caused by staff shortages.
People checking in for flights at Heathrow Terminal 2 were ushered into ‘snake’ queues to drop their bags and for airside security checks.
Regular traveller Lisbeth Le Brocq from Gothenburg, Sweden queuing for security in Terminal 3 said: "I have never seen Heathrow like this before and I’ve been flying to Sweden a lot of times."
Passenger Sue Litchfield added: "I think this is a ridiculous situation. They clearly haven’t got enough staff!"
Heathrow bosses are struggling to recruit enough extra security officers to cope with the post-pandemic demand for air travel.
The airport has set itself a target of hiring 1,000 additional staff before the end of 2022.
A spokesperson said security ‘vetting’ for new employees before they start work can take up to three months. Some staff, fed up of waiting months to be cleared, find other jobs.
A Heathrow spokesperson added: “This week Heathrow has been busy with hundreds of thousands of people making the most of half-term and the Jubilee Bank Holiday, a welcome change after the last two years.
"While there will be some slightly longer queues at peak times, we have been planning for this increase in passengers for a long time.
"We have plans in place for keeping the terminals flowing as smoothly as possible and will continue to do everything we can with our airport partners to support passengers.
"Other travellers labelled Heathrow queues "chaos" as the airport attempted to process passengers in time for their flights."
'I have never seen it like this'
With the escalator for departures in Terminal Two closed to limit crowds, holidaymakers were directed to take a lift from the arrivals floor instead.
"I think we're just about full, folks," one staff member said as several people forced their way into the lift.
One man, squashed in a corner, complained "It's chaos", which prompted the response: "Try working here".
In a bid to expedite queues in Terminal Three, "Heathrow Helpers" handed out clear plastic bags so travellers could pack their liquids before reaching the security desk.
A woman joining one of the lines said: "I have never seen it like this".
Shadow financial secretary to the Treasury James Murray claimed the Government “hasn’t prepared” for the rise in demand for travel.
A spokeswoman for the Government insisted the aviation industry is “responsible for making sure they have enough staff to meet demand”.
Airline passengers have been hit by cancellations and long delays at airports for several months, with the situation appearing to worsen this week during the half-term school holiday and ahead of the Platinum Jubilee bank holiday period.
Aviation data firm Cirium said 291 departures from major UK airports have been cancelled between May 25 and Tuesday.
EasyJet cancelled at least 31 flights at Gatwick on Tuesday.
British Airways is continuing to cancel dozens of flights each day, although the airline said passengers are being told several days in advance.
The aviation industry is suffering from staff shortages after thousands were let go during the coronavirus pandemic.
Many airlines and airports repeatedly called for more financial support due to the collapse in demand for travel caused by the Covid-19 crisis.
They are now struggling to recruit new workers and have their security checks processed.
Eurostar queues frustrate rail passengers
Eurostar passengers have also complained of long queues today in London.
Passengers shared pictures of queues stretching outside St Pancras Station, as the international rail service warned customers to expect a backlog.
"Advise anyone trying to catch Eurostar at St Pancras to stay home," author Svena O'Donnell wrote on Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.
"Absolute chaos, queues round several blocks, and zero information. (Also don’t bother turning up early- we were only allowed to start standing in a stationary queue 45 min before departure)."
A Eurostar spokesperson said: “Unfortunately we had a technical fault on a train earlier this morning which meant we had to take it out of service.
"As a consequence, there are delays of 30-60 minutes on departure in London St. Pancras.
"Queues are moving and our staff are working hard to look after passengers and ensure their check-in is as smooth as possible.”
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