Across the globe, air travel is in meltdown, and nowhere more so than in the UK. With the holiday season in full swing and passengers continuing to endure miserable, chaotic airport experiences, with multiple delays and even flight cancellations, the situation is being described by some in the industry as the “new normal.” The lingering effects of the Covid pandemic have been blamed by many for sparking the crisis. But as the situation worsens, airlines and airports, plus pilots, flight and ground crews, baggage handlers and security staff, have all come in for a share of criticism. Bosses of the major budget airlines also maintain that Brexit, with the added checks and restrictions it brings, is playing a huge part in the air travel nightmare. Ultimately though, whoever or whatever is at fault, it’s the passengers who suffer.

The images of jam-packed airports, queues stretching to outside terminal doors and people sleeping on floors, have become commonplace. And with airlines unexpectedly cancelling flights, airports suddenly imposing passenger number restrictions, and the inevitable and interminable hold-ups through security and departures, air-travel to almost anywhere has become fraught with doubt and discomfort. Even when holidaymakers do get away for that long-awaited dream break in the sun, the return to the UK can be equally distressing. Horrendous, snaking queues at border security and mountains of lost or wrongly directed luggage are regular occurrences for many returning home.

So, what to do? How do holidaymakers plan ahead for next year? Despite airports and airlines claiming the situation will improve, many in the industry reckon it could take years to return to the staffing levels necessary to make air travel at very least, a comfortable, if not entirely pleasant, experience. The security checks required for individuals wanting to join the industry in any capacity take considerable time, even in advance of employment and training. So, what about other travel options? A getaway to the continent by car or caravan, perhaps? Mmmm, maybe not.

The spiralling cost of fuel and the TV pictures of vehicles queuing for mile after mile on the approaches to Dover and Folkstone, along with the multiple tales of families waiting six or seven hours inside baking hot cars just to reach passport control, do little to encourage a holiday road trip. And despite government criticism of the French authorities for not providing enough cross-border staff, this situation is one created entirely by Brexit. The deal negotiated by the UK ended freedom of movement for British citizens travelling into EU countries, ensuring that extra passport checks would be required for every visitor from these shores. Perhaps then, for the foreseeable future at least, a holiday in the UK might be the best option. Maybe next year, most holidaymakers will be packing their buckets and spades and heading for the nearest seaside resort. It may not be quite so exotic, but it could make for a less stressful getaway – and return.

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