Thousands of passengers are waking up on Friday morning hundreds or thousands of miles from where they hoped to be, after large-scale flight cancellations on British Airways and easyJet on Thursday (24 August).
Thousands more travellers have been told their flights on Friday (25 August) are grounded, with BA cancelling 50 domestic and European flights to and from London Heathrow.
At London Gatwick, easyJet has made at least 10 cancellations on Friday.
Passengers have complained of being left to fend for themselves at airports across Europe after their flights were cancelled or held overnight following air-traffic control and weather delays.
The broadcaster Sangita Myska was booked on one of the three British Airways flights cancelled from Edinburgh to London on Thursday.
Addressing BA on X, formerly known as Twitter, she wrote: “You cancelled our Edinburgh to London flight with two hours’ notice.
“An entire plane-load of people (inc a v frustrated elderly lady) are at the airport now stuck trying to find last minute hotel rooms during the busiest part of the year – when those rooms are at their most expensive.
“The ground staff have given no reason for the cancellation, and passengers have been told to make their own hotel arrangements. Seems particularly unfair on those who aren’t used to travelling, older people or those that don’t have ready cash.”
Hotel rates are very high due to demand from people attending the Edinburgh Fringe and Television Festival.
Ms Myska, a presenter for LBC, wrote that she had been told the airline would cover only £250 in costs. She later told The Independent that she and and her husband had paid £400 for a hotel in the city.
Under air passengers’ rights rules, airlines are required to provide hotels, meals and alternative flights – regardless of the price.
From Nice, British Airways cancelled two out of its four evening flights to London; a third was delayed overnight; and the one that operated departed three hours late.
One passenger, David, contacted The Independent to ask: “Does British Airways make a habit of abandoning families with children at midnight?
“We have just had a cancelled flight at Nice after being sat on the Tarmac for an hour. BA couldn’t get us off the plane fast enough. Then washed their hands of us.”
British Airways flights were also held overnight at Dusseldorf, Marseille, Naples and Pisa.
Dozens of flights at London Gatwick on easyJet were also heavily disrupted, with many late cancellations.
The airline grounded 36 flights to and from the Sussex airport on Thursday, affecting at least 5,000 passengers.
From Murcia in southern Spain, the Thursday evening easyJet flight to Gatwick was axed at short notice. On X, a mother named Sandra wrote that her daughter was “told to arrange own hotels own transport, easyJet staff could not care”.
Passengers on the flight were told online by easyJet: “Due to extremely high demand, unfortunately we’re unable to find hotel rooms in the area.
“If you need a hotel room and are able to make your own arrangements, we’ll refund the cost of a reasonably priced room, meals and travel costs to and from your hotel.”
Another mother wrote: “My daughter is stuck in Rhodes, flight cancelled. She will fly to Edinburgh tomorrow morning, then fly to Bristol, no trains Saturday, so not sure how easy jet will get all the passengers to their destination – London.”
On the Greek island of Corfu, easyJet flights to Edinburgh and Manchester were delayed overnight.
Initially passengers were told: “We’d like to offer you a hotel room for the night, if you need one. We’re working with our hotel partner to book rooms.”
But shortly afterwards, the airline said: “Due to extremely high demand, unfortunately we’re unable to find hotel rooms in the area.”
Passengers are now expecting to fly back on Friday afternoon, 17 hours late.
On Friday, easyJet has cancelled a further 10 flights between Gatwick and Edinburgh, Faro, Milan, Nantes and Valencia.
A spokesperson for easyJet said: “Due to the impact of ATC restrictions across the network yesterday caused by adverse weather conditions across the UK and Europe which also resulted in the temporary suspension of operations at London Gatwick, some flights yesterday evening have been unable to operate as planned.
“We have been doing all possible to minimise the impact for our customers, providing those on cancelled flights with options to rebook or receive a refund as well as hotel accommodation and meals where required and we advise any customers who source their own that they will be reimbursed.
“The safety and wellbeing of customers and crew is easyJet’s highest priority and while this is outside of our control, we would like to apologise to customers for the inconvenience caused.”
British Airways cancellations at Heathrow on Friday include three round-trips to Rome, two to Copenhagen, Edinburgh and Stockholm, as well as links to Athens, Venice and Vienna.
A spokesperson for BA said: “Like other airlines, due to adverse weather conditions experienced in the London area and across Europe, we’ve made some minor adjustments to our short-haul schedule.
“We’ve contacted affected customers to apologise and offer them rebooking options or a full refund.”
Also from Heathrow, KLM has cancelled a flight to Amsterdam and Lufthansa has grounded a Munich departure.
Friday 25 August had been predicted by the aviation analyst, Cirium, as the busiest day of the year. Such is the scale of cancellations that the target is likely to be missed.