How ill-prepared passengers are to blame for Britain’s airport chaos


It’s pretty obvious that most of the current problems at UK airports – the queues, delays, cancelled flights and lost luggage – stem from their failure to anticipate the sudden growth in passenger numbers after two years of pandemic. Airports are short of staff and airlines are nowhere near up to speed.

But how much are passengers also contributing to the problems? Certainly I’ve had that impression that many people are distinctly rusty when it comes to the basics of travel. They are forgetting to take out laptops at security, or put their liquids into plastic bags. They don’t have their boarding cards ready and they try to take too much luggage on board. It all adds to the general sense of chaos and only makes the situation worse. 

It’s not surprising perhaps, because many have not travelled in so long. But it would help if we all had a refresher course in the new realities of travel.

Queues and arrival times

The long queues snaking out of terminals are hardly the passengers’ fault, but not anticipating the additional waiting time risks being a huge source of stress. So make sure you know the situation at your departure airport – you may well need to allow more than the usual two hours to get through to your flight.


… your local airport’s website and see how far ahead of departure you should be checking in. If you do get stuck in a queue and risk missing your flight, don’t suffer in silence – find a member of staff and ask to be given priority. It’s their job to make sure that people get through on time.

Passport problems

Confusion over the new EU rules about passport validity is a new issue and doesn’t affect many people. But when it does, it can cause a major problem. We’ve heard from significant numbers of readers who have been denied boarding because their passport does not meet the new rules.


… the validity dates meet the rules for the country you are visiting. Full details are on

Digital incompetence

It’s remarkable how many people don’t get out their phone and start looking for their boarding pass until they reach the checkpoint. So the whole queue grinds to a halt while they try to find it. By which time, they have forgotten which pocket their passport is in… It’s an even worse problem when you have to show a Covid vaccination certificate at the same time. And it can also hold up the queues getting onto the plane as people have to find their seat number on the boarding card again. 


… That you know where your documents are on your phone and be ready for the checks.


Virtually all airlines now impose extra charges for hold baggage and often cabin baggage too. I don’t defend that, but they are very clear about the size and weight of what is allowed, according to how much you have paid. And many people are simply not sticking to the rules – which inevitably causes hold-ups on boarding.


… If you have baggage to check-in arrive extra early – you may face queues here and at security. If you don’t, make sure your hand baggage meets size and weight restrictions.


As well as hold ups in the airports, log-jams in air traffic control are also causing problems at the moment. My flights to and from Palermo last week were each delayed by more than an hour and a half. Make sure you are prepared for a lengthy wait and have food and water ready. I was held on the tarmac for 90 mins for one of the delays – the plane quickly ran out of food and was charging £3 for a small bottle of water… 


… The website is one of several which give you the latest position of your inbound flight so you can see how long the delay is likely to be.

Pay for priority?

When I travelled through Stansted last week – and slightly against my principles – I made the decision to pay extra to make sure I wasn’t caught in the queues. I forked out £7 for Fast-Track security and the same amount for the priority lane at passport control – both booked through the airport website. I was arriving home late at night and there was often an enormous queue at that time. For me it was £14 well spent.

Are unprepared passengers to blame? Have your say in the comment section below

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