Join the queue for the Easter getaway!
Chalkmarks: Balearic Islands, Spain

Good morning. This is what happened in the world of travel this week: Friday 7th April 2023

The biggest news in town? Not Trump, not Sturgeon. It’s travel. The stat boffins predict two million Britons are planning to leave the island this weekend on 10,218 flights. Some 500,000 holidaymakers have booked packages with Tui heading to the Canary Islands, the Balearics, Spain, Turkey, Egypt and Greece. As the company’s share rose 10 per cent on Thursday, it said its planes were 95 per cent full this weekend. On the roads, the RAC forecasts 17 million car journeys. Many are heading to seaside spots on the West and South coast.
But WAIT! That’s the word grabbing frontpage headlines. Get in the queue is the mantra at UK ports, airports, on the roads, rail and even with passports. Today is the busiest day of the Easter Bank Holiday break. Traffic in most areas is expected to be up 25 per cent, due mainly to 600 Network Rail engineering works on the tracks affecting Sussex, the North West, the West Coast, Anglia and Wessex. Euston Station, with services up to Manchester and Glasgow, is closed. Need a passport? That’ll be 10 weeks.
Dun dun duuun! Here is everything you need to know before you travel. Get all your live links here

Not miles away!

Current queue times: At Dover 2hours … On the roads expect delays … At Heathrow none, but flights cancelled … Euston Station four days… Passport up to 10 weeks.

Good Friday: The Easter getaway makes today’s front pages with The Sun warning of “Bad Friday” and the Daily Mirror says “Standstill but good news… the weather will be nice-ish”.

Dover news: The chaos at the port in Kent to cross the Channel over to France began last Friday at the start of the school Easter holidays. The 19-hour delays made front page news in the Metro: The Easter holiday delays; and The Times: Brexit clash as rules blamed for Dover chaos. The Port of Dover apologised on Twitter.

Tourists trapped: Brexit was blamed. French border controls were blamed. The small size of the port was blamed. The wet weather was blamed. Easter was blamed. Holidaymakers were blamed. And coaches were blamed with arrivals 15 per cent up. With around 50-60 passengers per coach, it can take an hour to check and stamp every passport. The coaches stacked up. Children on school trips were stuck for hours… On Wednesday, the Port of Dover said it had a plan! To avoid the queues this weekend, it was working with the ferry companies to stagger sailings over the next three days. They would also add extra border staff and they asked drivers not to arrive too early and to bring food.

No message of hope: Going forward, the number of coaches may be capped as reported in the Financial Times – similar to Eurostar, which already limits the number of passengers due to longer border checks. Coach bosses say that’s not fair. But the warning is: just wait until biometric screening comes in when queue levels will reach mayhem, at all ports. The EU’s Entry-Exit System (EES) will mean every Briton needing to have their photo and four sets of fingerprints taken on arrival into Europe. Chalkmarks wrote about this in January. There’s no date yet when this is due to be rolled out, but perhaps this autumn. Plus, there are no plans to expand the port at Dover to allow more lanes or kiosks. So, get used to being at the back of the queue.

What the ferry firms are saying: DFDS: “Please allow 120 minutes to complete border controls and check-in… Traffic is free flowing through border controls and check-in.” Irish Ferries: “If you experience delays, we will accommodate you on the next available sailing.” P&O Ferries: “There are currently large queues at the entrance to the Port of Dover of at least 60 minutes… rest assured should you miss your crossing you will be on the next.”

What the government is saying: Natalie Elphicke, MP for Dover: “It’s not a Brexit issue. Home Secretary Suella Braverman said: “I don’t think that’s fair to say that this has been an adverse effect of Brexit”.

Traffic news: The RAC is on traffic watch across the nation to ensure drivers don’t get “egg-stremely frustrated” – that’s them on Twitter, not Chalkmarks. We egg-nore such obvious puns. Their survey shows that today and Easter Monday will be the busiest, with around around  2.7 million car trips. The roads will be quieter tomorrow and Sunday with 2.3 million journeys. And if the sun comes out we can expect even more traffic, RAC spokesman Rod Dennis warns. They predict the usual bottlenecks around Stonehenge, Wiltshire, and popular coastal areas especially Cornwall, Devon and Dorset. Here’s their cute bunny-in-a-car map showing where to find (or avoid) the longest delays.

Heathrow news: Security staff at Heathrow Terminal 5 are on strike for 10 days, which comes to an end on Bank Holiday Monday. With 1,400 staff on picket lines, queues are expected at security. British Airways has axed or already cancelled flights. Unite says it will fight for better pay. Heathrow say it is a good employer. Trade mag TTG had the story.

Have you seen our pictures: Our fantastic travel photos, which capture some of our favourite destinations around the world, are now available for sale on Alamy. Woohoo!

Passport news: The Passport Office delivered “unacceptable delays” to holidaymakers waiting on their travel documents last year. 360,000 travellers were forced to wait more than 10 weeks for their passports. The stark number came on Thursday from a damning report that revealed many of the delays in 2022 were due to “antiquated processes and poor planning”. How many of these holidaymakers missed their holidays? The report doesn’t say. SNP MP Peter Grant said: “It’s astonishing that even today the Passport Office hasn’t attempted to find out how many of these people had to cancel holidays or were unable to travel for family weddings or other lifetime occasions.” See the story here on ITV News

Not going to help: On Monday the passport people walked out on strike. They won’t be back at their desks until Friday 5th May. More than 1,000 civil servants from HM Passport Office are striking over pay, meaning your passport application or renewal will sit in their in-trays for longer than expected. Many staff say they work in poverty with many using food banks who can’t afford to take a holiday. Until this is resolved, travellers going away this summer will be affected. Chalkmarks reported on this two weeks ago. PCS union boss Mark Serwotka said he expected “huge delays” on travellers waiting on their passports for the summer. The government has extended its three-week wait time to 10 weeks. The current live wait time, according to the experts, is between two-to-four weeks. Travel expert Simon Calder was outside HM Passport Office in Pimlico, London.

Not now news: Heading out on a British holiday? Expect to possibly pay £1-a-night on hotel stays in the future. The group of cities that make up the Northern Powerhouse Partnership revealed a tourist tax could boost the coffers of local authorities by £428 million. In the southeast they forecast a £87.6 million windfall, followed by £86.4 million in the southwest with London pulling in £55.5 million. Some say it’s a great idea to take the pressure off stretched local councils but others say they won’t travel to those cities again, if a £1 levy is adopted. What do you think? The Mirror had the exclusive. 

Need to know news: It’s less stressful over at London City Airport which became the second in the UK – after Teeside – to install super scanners that mean passengers can keep their 100ml liquids in their hand luggage. This means queues move faster through security. We learned the hard way! We were told: “Stop right there”. We had taken out our travel minis and laptop from our carry-on to help speed things up. Unfortunately, we held up the queue after being told to stuff it all back in. Can you believe it? New rules, same old customer service. Not everything gets an upgrade. Ibiza was great though. Did you see our photos of the trip btw?

This time last year: The not so great Easter getaway: Another week of travel trouble. Holidays were back…Airports were not. It felt like 2021… Back then travel bosses were frustrated when the government advised us not to book overseas holidays due to new Covid variants… Now it was the airports and airlines that were having a wobble…There were two unexpected challenges: airports hadn’t recruited enough staff – having made hundreds redundant during the pandemic… Airlines were cancelling services as crew were off sick with Covid… Scenes of chaos didn’t just affect planes, but trains, ferries and roads. Deja Vu!

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Happy Easter!

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