How to chaos-proof your Easter holiday
The Easter holidays are upon us, and already we have witnessed chaotic scenes at the Port of Dover as thousands of British holidaymakers got caught up in lengthy delays over the weekend.
But this isn’t the only way that your Easter holiday could fall into turmoil at the last minute. In fact, there are a number of factors that could conspire to ruin your getaway.
British Airways is cancelling hundreds of flights over the week, Covid rule still linger in dozens of destinations, the Passport Office has helpfully planned a five-week strike, French air traffic controllers are also walking out, and following last year’s chaotic scenes there is the ever-present possibility of the dreaded airport queue.
Follow these steps and you will significantly reduce your chances of a ruined holiday.
Flight cancellations at Heathrow
If you are flying with British Airways from Heathrow you could face disruption on your Easter holiday.
The flag-carrier has already cancelled around 32 flights per day over the Easter weekend. This is due to a ten-day strike by 1,400 Heathrow security workers who are taking action over a pay dispute.
The strike began on March 31 and is set to end on April 9, after talks to sidestep the walkout collapsed. If your flight has already been scrapped, you should have heard from British Airways. In a statement, it said: “We’ve regrettably had to make a small number of adjustments to our schedule.
“We’ve apologised to customers whose travel plans have been affected and have offered them a range of options, including rebooking onto a new flight with us or another airline, or requesting a full refund.”
Heathrow says it is deploying more than 1,000 additional staff to ensure there is as little disruption as possible over the Easter weekend, although getting through security may take “a little longer” so passengers are advised to arrive early.
Do this: Keep on top of your emails and don’t ignore any communications from British Airways. You are entitled to be placed on a reasonable replacement flight, but if it doesn’t suit you then you can ask for a refund instead. Always be aware of your airline’s cancellation policy when booking flights, as they can differ slightly.
French air traffic control strikes
French air traffic controllers have been striking in recent weeks over the same proposed pension reform scheme that has prompted widespread protests across France.
France’s civil aviation authority, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), asked airlines to cancel a number of flights from French airports on April 1–2 due to the strikes.
The affected airports included Paris-Orly, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Nantes, Lyon and Marseille. There is scope for further action in the coming weeks, meaning that flights to France over Easter could potentially be affected.
Other destinations could be affected, too. Ryanair’s CEO, Michael O’Leary, warned that the airline received an aviation instruction to cut 60 flights on Thursday March 30 due to the strikes. This included flights that did not land in France but which flew over French airspace.
EasyJet’s CEO Johan Lundgren said: “We’re very badly hit. It’s impossible sometimes for people to comprehend when they go from point A to point B and there’s something happening at point C that makes the flight cancelled.”
Do this: There is little you can do to protect yourself against a cancelled flight due to air traffic controller strikes in France. Keep on top of the scheduled strikes using our calendar, and be aware that strikes often take place over weekends, meaning weekday flights are less likely to be cancelled. Choosing a destination that doesn’t require a flight over France, of course, is your only way to ensure you are not affected.
Lingering Covid rules
While the majority of countries have scrapped Covid entry requirements, some destinations still require proof of vaccination for entry. Others require negative test results from unvaccinated arrivals, and some still screen passengers for Covid on arrival.
Popular destinations including the United States, Japan, Indonesia, Brazil and Kenya are still imposing Covid rules. There are dozens more.
The countries that require proof of vaccination for entry are: the Cook Islands, Equatorial Guinea, Indonesia, Laos, Liberia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, Philippines (or test), the Pitcairn Islands, Puerto Rico, Tonga, Turks and Caicos and the United States.
The countries that require tests before travel, if unvaccinated, are: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Japan (if not triple vaccinated), Kenya, Kosovo, Laos, Philippines, Venezuela and Zimbabwe.
Some countries still test for Covid on arrival, including Hong Kong and Nauru. Many more still carry out random tests on arrivals.
Do this: Check your destination’s FCDO page before travel, to confirm there are no Covid entry requirements. If you need proof of vaccination, download the NHS app and make sure you have your proof of vaccination saved as a PDF.
If you need a test, costs have come down since the heyday of pre-departure testing, so shop around before you book. And if you are feeling unwell before travel, it might be wise to take a precautionary Covid test – particularly if you are travelling to a destination that carries out tests on arrival.
Passport Office workers are to strike for five weeks from April 3 to May 5 in an ongoing dispute over jobs, pay and conditions.
Since the Easter Weekend begins on Friday April 7, it is unlikely that you will be affected by the strikes unless you have left things to the very last minute and are trying to fast-track a passport ahead of your holiday. More likely is that you could get caught out by new EU passport expiration rules.
You now need six months of validity on your travel documents, due to Brexit. To complicate matters even further, some people whose passports do not expire until the end of 2023 or even the beginning of 2024 may also be turned away when entering the EU. Some UK passports have up to 10 years and nine months of validity, but the EU will now ignore the additional nine months.
This means some people will be refused entry to the EU, even if they have 15 months left on their passports.
Do this: The only way to avoid disappointment when ordering a new passport is to leave plenty of time and be clear on new EU rules on passport expiration dates. If you need a new passport urgently, you can use the one-week fast track service, but you will pay the price: £155 for an adult or £126 for a child. And beware that the Passport Office may not be able to honour the one-week turnaround during the strike period.
Long queues at airports
Cast your mind back to Easter 2022 and you may remember chaotic scenes at Eurostar and airports, with lengthy queues and more than 100 flights cancelled per day. The disruption continued into the summer, as some airports struggled to get sufficient staff numbers because of layoffs made during the pandemic.
Industry leaders have spoken out ahead of the Easter weekend in an attempt to allay any fears of a repeat of last year’s dramas.
Chris Woodroofe, Managing Director at Manchester Airport, said: "I can absolutely reassure passengers they won’t see the [security] queues they saw in summer 2022. We’re aiming to deliver at least 95 per cent of our passengers in 15 minutes.”
Do this: Despite reassurances, it’s never a bad idea to arrive nice and early to ensure you don’t get caught up in any unexpected queues at security. Checking in online before you arrive at the airport and using automated luggage check-in (if available) will help to speed up the process.