David and Jasmine Pringle had woken up at 4am to travel to Manchester Airport from County Durham after Qatar Airways told them to expect huge delays for their flight to Doha.
“Leaving home at 5 a.m. for a 3 p.m. flight isn’t ideal,” David said. “But it’s been over two years since we last saw Jasmine’s family in the Philippines and we desperately wanted to make the trip to see her elderly parents. We paid the best part of £3000 for the flights. Now we just want to make it happen.
“While we await news of our flight, it is worrying how few people are wearing masks or maintaining social distancing,” he added. “Travel restrictions may have been lifted, but people seem to forget that the disease is still very much around.”
Passengers traveling via Manchester Airport are once again having to endure long wait times and uncertainty on their flights – but this time before they’ve even checked in. days.
Just a day after chief executive Karen Smart resigned amid criticism of long security queues and crowded terminals, the problem now facing passengers is how long they should allow to pass the safety – and how much money they have to set aside for food, transport and additional Covid tests before they can board the plane.
The airport is implementing measures to deal with the chaos it has experienced in recent weeks, but many people are now finding that after being told by airlines to arrive hours early for their flight , they endure waits of up to eight hours. in air terminals even before they can be checked in.
Manchester is a major international transport hub, attracting passengers from across the north of England and beyond. The Guardian spoke to travelers from as far away as Bradford, North Lincolnshire, Newcastle, Tynemouth and Cumbria – many of whom are armed with Covid test results, masks and gifts for relatives they don’t have seen since before the pandemic.
Geraldine and Tony Walker were also waiting to board the flight to Doha, using it as a stopover before heading to Adelaide to see their family.
“We paid nearly £100 each for PCR tests, traveled from Brighouse in Yorkshire and downloaded codes from several apps onto our phones to prove our vaccination status – it took a lot of effort and expense to get to this period, so hopefully everything will be fine once we finally get on the plane,” Tony said.
Navdeep and Manpreet Singh, a couple from Leeds, were taking their daughter to Delhi. Their wait was less than 20 minutes once they arrived at the airport, but Navdeep acknowledged the long wait times others had endured. “There are children here and old people,” he said. “If the airlines want us to arrive early, they should be prepared to pay for refreshments.”
Those arriving in Manchester after long journeys have also been keen to comment on how costly and complex it is for those landing in the city to leave the airport.
Sisters Hannah and Rachel Singer, from New York, were waiting to be picked up after traveling to the UK via Dublin and Paris respectively. “It’s nothing like the United States,” Hannah said. “There you can easily pick up someone at the airport. We’re waiting for our dad now – he’ll have to navigate the parking lot, pay a fee, and then wait for us to find him.
The airport, along with much of the aviation industry, struggled to recruit laid-off staff after the pandemic shuttered airports and travel. As the Easter getaway boosts travel, similar issues have hit other airports including Heathrow and Birmingham. More than 1,000 flights in the UK have been canceled in recent days due to the absence of sick crews amid a rise in Covid cases.
A Manchester Airport spokesperson said: “As we work to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic, a rapid increase in passenger numbers, as well as the staff shortages and recruitment challenges facing our industry faces, mean at times that our operations are strained.
“We are doing everything we can to recruit the staff we need to meet demand at all times, so that all passengers can have this experience. However, this is time consuming due to the lengthy verification and training processes involved. This is why we advise travelers that sometimes there may be longer than normal queues.