Travelers hoping to get away for the bank holiday weekend by road, rail and air are being advised to adjust their travel plans or “pack their patience” in anticipation of traffic jams, train disruptions and plane seat cancellations.
According to aviation data from Cirium, about 290,000 seats have been cut from August bank holiday flight schedules in recent weeks. Outbound flights for the approaching weekend are 21% below 2019 levels, and approximately 900 inbound flights between Friday and Tuesday have been cancelled.
Paul Charles, the chief executive of The PC Agency travel consultancy, said: “Our aviation sector should be growing strongly on one of the busiest weekends of the year, and not held back by staff shortages and poor planning by airports and ground handlers.”
Industrial disputes, staff shortages as a result of Brexit, and rising inflation has buckled the aviation sector, resulting in severe delays and surges in air fares. Airlines across the sector have been forced to introduce caps on operations at Heathrow and Gatwick airports.
In July, British Airways scrapped nearly 380 departures. EasyJet axed almost 90 outbound flights, and Flybe removed more than 130.
“It’s astonishing to see over a quarter of a million seats cut from flight schedules, at a time when demand to fly remains high,” Charles told PA Media. “There are aircraft ready to be used but not enough people to get them prepared and off the ground.”
Similar disruption is expect on the nation’s roads and railways. The breakdown company RAC predicted more than 12.5m journeys would be made by holidaymakers between Friday and Monday, with 2pm to 7pm on Friday likely to be the busiest period.
“We’re expecting busy roads to continue throughout this bank holiday weekend, especially to major holiday destinations, with people eager to enjoy some time away before the new school terms begin in England and Wales,” the RAC spokesman Rod Dennis told PA Media.
“The south-east and south-west of England look as though they may bear the brunt of the traffic, with the message to drivers traveling through these regions clear – head off early in the morning or be prepared to sit in traffic.”
According to the traffic information supplier Inrix, two areas facing potential backlogs include the M25 between Bromley and the Dartford Crossing, and the M60 between Junction 7 for the A56 (Altrincham) and Junction 18 for the M62.
The Inrix analyst Bob Pishue said: “Drivers planning to get away are going to find themselves competing with commuters and holiday travelers for road space.” He advised drivers to adjust their timing or “pack their patience”.
While 95% of National Rail routes will remain open, certain routes will be affected as the company carries out upgrades worth £90m.
Engineering works will be carried out along the West Coast line at various sites including London Euston, Milton Keynes and Northampton. No trains will be running to and from London Charing Cross and London Cannon Street on Saturday or Sunday, or to London Charing Cross onbankholiday Monday.
No trains will run between Finsbury Park and Moorgate in London during the bank holiday weekend.