Aviation bursting at seams in busiest-ever summer for airports and airlines

The busiest-ever summer for holidays abroad is putting unprecedented strain on airlines, airports and passengers, research by The Independent has shown.

Thousands of travellers remain stranded after their weekend flights were cancelled, with easyJet alone grounding at least 28 flights.

The budget airline is blaming “congested airspace, particularly in the London area, adverse weather and air traffic control delays.”

Heathrow and Gatwick airports are handling far more passengers than their design capacities. Airspace over France, used by more than 1,000 British flights every day, has too few staff to handle the growth in traffic. And tougher passport checks at European airports mean passengers face queues of up to four hours to pass border controls, with thousands of flights delayed as a result.

Among the first cancellations on Sunday morning was easyJet’s flight from Gatwick to Marseille. The airline blamed “lengthy air traffic control delays” meaning that the crew due to operate the previous night’s service “were unable to do so after reaching their maximum working hours”.

One passenger, Miki Maskell, tweeted: “@easyJet Thanks for cancelling my flight to Marseille with just 7 hours notice, Lost 3 days. Customer Service disgusting, Shame on you.”

It follows an incident on Friday night when a worker at Nice airport punched an easyJet passenger in the face. The member of staff is said to have hit the man, who was holding a nine-month old child, after he complained about the lack of care during the 13-hour delay for a flight to Luton.

While a decision is awaited on building another runway in the London area, both Heathrow and Gatwick are handling record numbers of flights and passengers. They are the busiest two-runway and single-runway airports in the world, and have very little slack in the system.

When the runway at Gatwick was temporarily closed following a blown tyre on an Air Canada jet two weeks ago, dozens of…

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