UK airport chaos: Tui boss emails customers apologising for ‘distress caused by cancellations’


Tui boss emails customers apologising for ‘distress caused by cancellations’ as EasyJet grounds 47 flights – and it emerges 35,000 holidaymakers waited longer than ten weeks for a new passport

  • 16 easyJet flights at London Gatwick are cancelled plus ten at Luton, eight at Belfast and seven at Bristol
  • Others are axed today at Stansted and a handful more at Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle
  • Tui managing director Andrew Flintham issues 300-word email to customers entitled ‘An apology from Tui’ 
  • Letter says a ‘complex ecosystem of services’ faced ‘capacity issues that impacted some of our customers’
  • Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Four reopens for first time in two years today ahead of peak summer season

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Holiday operator Tui has issued a grovelling apology to all customers for their ‘poor experience’ amid the ongoing travel chaos as easyJet cancelled a further 47 flights today with London airports particularly badly hit again.

Some 16 easyJet flights at London Gatwick were axed today along with another ten at Luton, eight at Belfast, seven at Bristol, six at Stansted and a handful more at Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle.

And Tui managing director Andrew Flintham issued a 300-word email to all customers entitled ‘An apology from Tui’ which said a ‘complex ecosystem of services’ faced ‘capacity issues that impacted some of our customers’.

He also wrote: ‘In some instances, customers were subject to delays and – in rare cases – cancellations. These customers had a poor experience – for that, and the distress caused by the cancellations, I apologise’.

It comes as new Home Office data made clear the scale of the passport backlog earlier this year, revealing that more than 35,000 people waited longer than ten weeks for their document in the first three months of 2022.

Also today, Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Four reopened for the first time in two years ahead of the peak summer season, with the first airline flying out being Qatar Airways to Doha – and 30 others are set to join soon. 

EDINBURGH AIRPORT: One passenger travelling through Edinburgh Airport this morning described scenes of 'huge chaos'

EDINBURGH AIRPORT: One passenger travelling through Edinburgh Airport this morning described scenes of ‘huge chaos’

EDINBURGH AIRPORT: A passenger said this was the scene at Edinburgh Airport at 5.25am this morning, adding: 'What a joke'

EDINBURGH AIRPORT: A passenger said this was the scene at Edinburgh Airport at 5.25am this morning, adding: ‘What a joke’

GLASGOW AIRPORT: One Twitter user posted this picture shortly before midnight and said it was an 'absolute shambles' at Glasgow last night, adding: '40 minutes since the flight landed and no sign of bags. Huge pile of abandoned bags in arrivals'

GLASGOW AIRPORT: One Twitter user posted this picture shortly before midnight and said it was an ‘absolute shambles’ at Glasgow last night, adding: ’40 minutes since the flight landed and no sign of bags. Huge pile of abandoned bags in arrivals’

As passengers again reported huge queues this morning at Manchester, Edinburgh and Belfast airports – and others tweeted pictures of chaos overnight at Gatwick and Bristol, easyJet made further flight cancellations.

It axed 16 flights at Gatwick today – eight departures to Almeria, Catania, Belfast, Preveza, Krakow, Madrid, Prague and Montpellier; and eight arrivals from Belfast, Montpellier, Milan, Catania, Preveza, Prague, Madrid and Krakow.

‘An apology from TUI’: Full 300-word email from holiday operator’s boss

Dear Customer,

In recent weeks, you will have read in the news, or seen on social media, that the travel industry as a whole has been affected by delays and cancellations. I know that our customers work hard for their valuable time away, which is why we always do everything in our power to deliver a fantastic holiday.

TUI holidays rely on a complex ecosystem of services. This includes our own pilots and cabin crew, as well as operational partners that cover things like check-in, baggage and catering. Alongside that, we work closely with air traffic control and airport security teams. Our planes cannot take to the skies when the ecosystem is not working as it should be.

Over the first weekend of the May half term, the ecosystem experienced capacity issues that impacted some of our customers. In some instances, customers were subject to delays and – in rare cases – cancellations. These customers had a poor experience – for that, and the distress caused by the cancellations, I apologise.

I would like to assure you that we have learnt from what happened, and we’re working closely with our partners to address the issues that caused the delays and cancellations. I’d also like to reassure you that situations like this are rare – this week, the vast majority of our flights have operated normally, and over 200,000 customers took off to enjoy their TUI holiday as planned. Our teams have been supporting customers who were affected in finding alternative holidays and processing any refunds due. And I can assure you that TUI would never leave you stranded overseas.

I hope this gives you the confidence to look forward to your holiday with TUI this summer, or next time you travel with us. We can’t wait to see you soon.

Best Wishes

Andrew Flintham

Managing Director

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There were ten easyJet cancellations at Luton today – those being five departures to Paris, Berlin, Jersey, Edinburgh and Malaga; and five arrivals from Lisbon, Paris, Berlin, Jersey and Edinburgh.

At Belfast International Airport there were eight cancellations – four departures and four arrivals, all to or from Newcastle, Glasgow, Birmingham and Stansted.

Seven flights at Bristol were axed – those being four departures to Hurghada, Paris, Bilbao and Biarritz; and three arrivals from Paris, Bilbao and Biarritz.

There were also cancellations at Stansted, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newcastle to and from the likes of Amsterdam as well as a series of UK airports. 

However, there were no cancellations by easyJet at Manchester or Liverpool airports as of this morning.

Tui is one of the holiday operators worst hit by the cancellations, with many of its packages using short-haul easyJet flights which have faced major disruption.

And Mr Flintham said in an email sent late last night that customers ‘will have read in the news, or seen on social media, that the travel industry as a whole has been affected by delays and cancellations’.

He continued: ‘TUI holidays rely on a complex ecosystem of services. This includes our own pilots and cabin crew, as well as operational partners that cover things like check-in, baggage and catering.

‘Alongside that, we work closely with air traffic control and airport security teams. Our planes cannot take to the skies when the ecosystem is not working as it should be.’

He said that over the first weekend of the May half-term holidays, the ‘ecosystem experienced capacity issues that impacted some of our customers. In some instances, customers were subject to delays and – in rare cases – cancellations. These customers had a poor experience – for that, and the distress caused by the cancellations, I apologise’.

Mr Flintham continued: ‘I would like to assure you that we have learnt from what happened, and we’re working closely with our partners to address the issues that caused the delays and cancellations.

‘I’d also like to reassure you that situations like this are rare – this week, the vast majority of our flights have operated normally, and over 200,000 customers took off to enjoy their TUI holiday as planned.

‘Our teams have been supporting customers who were affected in finding alternative holidays and processing any refunds due. And I can assure you that TUI would never leave you stranded overseas.’

He finished: ‘I hope this gives you the confidence to look forward to your holiday with TUI this summer, or next time you travel with us. We can’t wait to see you soon.’

Separately, new Home Office data revealed the number of full-time civil servants working at the Passport Office has fallen from 3,913 to 3,232 over the past five years, with agency replacing many of them.

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Holidaymakers queue for check-in in the Jet2 area of Manchester Airport Terminal Two yesterday

MANCHESTER AIRPORT: Holidaymakers queue for check-in in the Jet2 area of Manchester Airport Terminal Two yesterday

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers and commuters flying from Bristol encounter lengthy queues before 4am yesterday

BRISTOL AIRPORT: Holidaymakers and commuters flying from Bristol encounter lengthy queues before 4am yesterday

LONDON HEATHROW: A traveller described the 'worst passport queue I've ever encountered at Heathrow' yesterday

LONDON HEATHROW: A traveller described the ‘worst passport queue I’ve ever encountered at Heathrow’ yesterday

A parliamentary answer to shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper also revealed more than 35,000 people waited more than ten weeks for a passport between January and March 2022.

EasyJet flights that have been cancelled today 

A total of 47 easyJet flights have been cancelled today. 

The total listed below is 59, but that includes duplicates – for example, Belfast-Birmingham is listed twice, once as a Belfast departure and once as Birmingham arrival.

GATWICK (16)

  • 8 departures: Almeria, Catania, Montpellier, Belfast, Preveza, Krakow, Madrid, Prague
  • 8 arrivals: Belfast, Montpellier, Milan, Catania, Preveza, Prague, Madrid, Krakow

LUTON (10)

  • 5 departures – Paris, Berlin, Jersey, Edinburgh, Malaga
  • 5 arrivals – Lisbon, Paris, Berlin, Jersey, Edinburgh

BELFAST (8)

  • 4 departures: Newcastle, Glasgow, Birmingham, Stansted
  • 4 arrivals: Newcastle, Glasgow, Birmingham, Stansted

BRISTOL (7)

  • 4 departures: Hurghada, Paris, Bilbao, Biarritz
  • 3 arrivals: Paris, Bilbao, Biarritz

STANSTED (6)

  • 3 departures: Amsterdam, Belfast, Glasgow
  • 3 arrivals: Amsterdam, Belfast, Glasgow

BIRMINGHAM (4)

  • 2 departures: Belfast, Amsterdam
  • 2 arrivals: Belfast, Amsterdam

GLASGOW (4)

  • 2 departures: Belfast, Stansted
  • 2 arrivals: Belfast, Stansted

EDINBURGH (2)

  • 1 departures: Luton
  • 1 arrivals: Luton

NEWCASTLE (2)

  • Departures: Belfast
  • Arrivals: Belfast

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This figure disputes the claim given by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in Parliament last month that everyone was receiving a passport within four to six weeks of their application, reported The Times

A HM Passport Office spokesman told MailOnline today: ‘Staff are processing approximately 250,000 passport applications each week and the latest figures show that 98.5 per cent of applications have been completed within 10 weeks. 

‘But we cannot compromise security checks and people should apply with plenty of time prior to travelling.

‘Since April 2021, we’ve clearly stated that people should allow up to ten weeks when applying for their passport to factor in the increased demand, which has seen five million people delay their passport application due to the pandemic. 

‘An expedited service is available to help the small percentage of people whose applications take longer than ten weeks to receive their passports before they travel.’

It comes as airlines are being forced to charter planes to meet soaring passenger demand due to the aviation staff crisis.

TUI, easyJet and British Airways are among those chartering planes at great expense just so they can fulfil holiday bookings.

It is understood the airlines have plenty of planes but not enough cabin crew to steward them.

Charter planes come with cabin crew, meaning it is preferable to lease these rather than cancel holidays.

But it means travellers’ flight times can change at the last-minute, creating more chaos for holidaymakers.

This particularly affects those who have booked train tickets in advance in accordance with their departure time. It also means food and drink is not always available on flights.

Thousands of travellers are receiving emails from carriers saying their airline has been changed to a charter service, which can create confusion when it comes to boarding.

EasyJet passengers flying from Gatwick airport to Kalamata, in Greece, at the weekend were sent an email saying: ‘Please be advised that your flight is operated by SmartLynx Latvia on behalf of easyJet.

‘Fresh sandwiches and hot food may not be available on your flight, we’re very sorry about any inconvenience this may cause.

‘If you have any medical or dietary requirements, you may wish to bring your own fresh food with you. Please remember that if you buy alcohol before your flight, you won’t be able to drink it on board.’

Passengers flying from Gatwick to Cyprus with TUI this weekend are being told: ‘One or more of your flights will now be operated by EuroAtlantic airways on behalf of TUI Airways.

‘This is because we plan our flying programme a long time in advance and depending on where and when our customers are choosing to travel, we do on occasions need to change the type of aircraft we operate on a particular route. 

Tui managing director Andrew Flintham issued a 300-word email to all customers late last night entitled 'An apology from Tui'

Tui managing director Andrew Flintham issued a 300-word email to all customers late last night entitled ‘An apology from Tui’

‘We’re sorry for any disappointment this may cause. EuroAtlantic airways is a Schedule and Non-Schedule Portuguese International Airline. 

Heathrow Terminal Four reopens after two years

London Heathrow Airport reopened its Terminal Four today, two years after it closed due to the pandemic.

The terminal had been shut to passengers since May 2020, which saw the likes of Air France, Etihad and KLM move to Terminal Two.

London Heathrow Airport's Terminal Four had been shut to passengers since May 2020. It is pictured in January that year

London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Four had been shut to passengers since May 2020. It is pictured in January that year

The reopening also means that Elizabeth Line train services are now serving Terminal Four for the first time.

Qatar Airways is the first airline to move in with flights to Doha, with another 30 set to join over the next month.

These include: Air Algerie; Air Astana; Air Malta; Air Mauritius; Air Serbia; Azerbaijan Airlines; Bulgarian Air, El Al – Israeli Airlines; Etihad Airways; Gulf Air; ITA Airlines; Kenya Airways; Korean Air; Kuwait Airways; Malaysian Airlines; Omanair; Qatar Airways; Royal Air Maroc; Royal Brunei; Saudi Arabia Airlines; TAROM; Tunis Air; Uzbekistan Airways; and Vietnam Airlines.

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‘It provides charter services and Ad-Hoc flights to Europe and the Rest of the World.’ 

British Airways has been warning passengers to expect Finnair aircraft to fly them abroad instead as part of a leasing deal.

It has been borrowing planes from Finland’s national carrier in a bid to avoid cancelling more flights this summer.

The industry is gripped by a staff shortages crisis, with cabin crew and baggage handlers particularly in short supply.

It means aircraft are often delayed due to planes taking longer to turn around at either end of their flight course.

Schedules can allow as little as an hour for a turnaround but if bags are not unloaded for several hours due to staff shortages it can have a huge knock-on effect.

Yesterday easyJet cancelled another 70 flights across Europe with another 218 delayed.

Wizz Air and TUI also cancelled dozens over the half-term holidays and British Airways has removed 16,000 flights, or 8,000 round trips, from its schedules – although this was done a few months in advance.

Staff shortages have also sparked huge queues at airports.

Yesterday it was reported that Gatwick Airport is suffering a ‘meltdown every night’ due to a staff shortages in the air traffic control tower.

It was claimed the UK’s second-largest airport is having to put restrictions on movements per hour, below its declared capacity.

But the airport denied this was the case and said there were only shortages on three occasions over the last six weeks.

Staff shortages at European airports also appear to be causing problems.

Eurocontrol, which manages European airspace, released data showing that air traffic flow management delays (ATFM) have soared in recent weeks.

A Gatwick spokesman said: ‘Sickness among air traffic control staff in the airport’s control tower has been an issue on just a couple of evenings recently but these have not been the cause of any delays outside of these isolated incidents.’

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