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Why weren’t airports ready for lift-off after lockdown?

Why weren’t airports ready for lift-off after lockdown? It’s not as if the surge in demand for holidays over Easter has come as any great surprise, writes MARK PALMER

Were a business traveller to fly from overseas into Britain this week with a view to opening an office in the UK, he would likely take one look at the carnage and fly out again, concluding that the travel sector in Britain plc is not fit for purpose. And who could blame him?

It’s not as if the surge in demand for holidays over Easter has come as any great surprise. There’s been plenty of time to put contingency plans in place.

And what makes the debacle so infuriating is that for the past two years airlines and airports have banged on and on about wanting to see an end to costly testing and the filling out of passenger locator forms. Now, that day has come and they can’t cope.

It’s not as if the surge in demand for holidays over Easter has come as any great surprise. There’s been plenty of time to put contingency plans in place

It’s not short-sightedness but a case of being blind to a problem that was inevitable without incisive leadership and proper planning. Both have been sadly lacking.

Blaming the misery that holidaymakers have experienced in the last few days – and will continue to experience this week – on the rise in Covid infections is disingenuous.

Even before Christmas the World Travel & Tourism Council warned of severe staff shortages if the travel industry failed to hire and train up new staff to replace those who were let go at the height of the pandemic.

It didn’t happen, not least because the wages on offer have been at 2019 levels.

Which is why children have been forced to urinate into plastic bags while queuing with their parents; why more than a thousand flights have been cancelled and why some people have waited more than three hours to retrieve their bags.

The blame game has already started, with airlines blaming the airports for their lack of preparation and airports blaming airlines for ratcheting up the number of flights in the hope of recouping their losses – and then cancelling them with little warning.

Blaming the misery that holidaymakers have experienced in the last few days – and will continue to experience this week – on the rise in Covid infections is disingenuous

Blaming the misery that holidaymakers have experienced in the last few days – and will continue to experience this week – on the rise in Covid infections is disingenuous

Now, confidence in travel is at risk and that’s dangerous. Travel in the UK accounts for nearly £150billion a year, more than 7.2 per cent of national output.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been unusually silent in the last few days but he and his department need to make sure that the scenes we are witnessing never happen again.

Staying put over Easter seems an increasingly attractive option – because Good Friday looks set to be a rotten Friday for those keen to move about the country.

The West Coast main line will be closed between London Euston and Milton Keynes over the weekend for upgrades on the existing line and HS2 work, while Network Rail plans to carry out more than 530 engineering projects (stock image)

The West Coast main line will be closed between London Euston and Milton Keynes over the weekend for upgrades on the existing line and HS2 work, while Network Rail plans to carry out more than 530 engineering projects (stock image)

The West Coast main line will be closed between London Euston and Milton Keynes over the weekend for upgrades on the existing line and HS2 work, while Network Rail plans to carry out more than 530 engineering projects.

Drivers should also expect long queues on roads, with some 21.5million leisure trips expected to be made over the Easter holiday.

Expect a number of roadworks even though no one might be working on them.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been unusually silent in the last few days but he and his department need to make sure that the scenes we are witnessing never happen again

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has been unusually silent in the last few days but he and his department need to make sure that the scenes we are witnessing never happen again

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