This Christmas and New Year air travellers face unprecedented ‘Chrexit Chaos’ according to flight and travel search platform Cheapflights, which is urging those flying over the festive fortnight to minimise the risk of delays or missing their flight altogether by planning ahead.
Cheapflights’ research reveals that Friday 23rd, followed by Thursday 22nd, Wednesday 21st, and next Monday 26th (in that order) will be the busiest days for jetting off from the UK, based on the most searched for departure dates.
Heathrow alone expects 118,393 departing passengers and 104,719 arrivals on the final Friday before Christmas, whilst Gatwick expects 59,000 departing passengers on Christmas Eve.
With some major airports lacking rail access for parts of the next fortnight, road and other routes will be under remarkable pressure. In addition, British Airways cabin crew have voted to strike on unconfirmed dates after 21 December, potentially causing disruption to the airline’s Heathrow flights, and Virgin Atlantic pilots will work ‘strictly to contract’ from Friday.
In London, five rail termini will be closed on various dates across the festive break for engineering work, including Paddington from 24-29 December, when there will be no Heathrow Express services. There will be no Gatwick Express service from 10pm on Christmas Eve until 4am on 4 January. Passengers using the Stansted Express will have a replacement bus service on 31 December and 1 January, and those travelling to or from Manchester Airport face disrupted services between 21 December and 4 January.
Strikes are confirmed on Southern Railway services for today and tomorrow (19 and 20 December) and between 31 January and 2 January, affecting rail travel in south London, Kent, Surrey, West Sussex and East Sussex. Passengers are urged not to attempt train travel on the later strike dates.
The Highways Agency claims that 98% of the UK’s 9,534 miles of roads will be clear of roadworks between 23 December and 3 January, however the AA expects that there will be 12 million cars making journeys of 20 miles this Friday, 23 December – the most-searched for date for flights.
Andrew Shelton, MD of Cheapflights, said: “Tempers fray faster than cheap tinsel at this time of year, so whatever your travel plans over the festive period, a little preparation can go a long way. Our research shows that 60% of Londoners and 44% of all Brits were considering flying out of the UK this Christmas, and with so many people heading for our airports it’s vital to plan ahead. Pre-booking taxis or coach transfers, considering local buses that link cities to airports, and leaving much more time than usual to travel to the airport are all advisable. Also, keep in touch with your airline and check your airport’s website for transport advice.”
He said: “If the worst does happen and you miss your flight due to delays on public transport or the roads, refer to the small print of your travel insurance policy immediately as you may be covered. It may also be worth checking how you’d get home from your departure airport if you were to miss your flight as well as ensuring you have travel options for your planned return date.”