Gatwick Airport Busy Times: How big are the queues today?

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Birmingham and Manchester Airport have been in the news regularly in the past few weeks, with persistent issues with queues and staffing issues.

Today, Gatwick has been in the news with reports of chaos, but a lot of these problems appear to relate to cancellations rather than excessive queues (though that's still a problem).

With queues plaguing both the baggage check-in and security, it has led many people to miss flights. Baggage check-in opens 3 hours before the flight, but the queues to do this and then get through security quite often take longer than required to make the gate on time.

Many travellers have seen no compassion from airlines or the staff, with people reporting that they are told they should have got there sooner, even though this would have been impossible.

Things don't seem to improve when you return, either. Yesterday, there was reported “carnage” at Birmingham airport, with some people claiming hours-long waits for bags.

No compensation and likely rebooking fees

If you miss your flight due to queues, it is typically classed as your fault (or at least the airport, not the airlines' fault). The airline there isn't liable to pay compensation or refund.

If you can prove you were in the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure time, you will be entitled to rebook the flight. British Airways and Virgin have been reported to do this free of charge. Affordable airlines such as EasyJet and Ryanair will charge a fee. In the case of Ryanair, this is £100 per person.

This also assumes you can find a flight with available seats for the day you want to fly out.

Half term and Jubilee weekend cancellations

A more recent problem is that from this week, it is expected that airports will be their busiest since before the pandemic. However, airlines and the airports didn't have enough staff in the first place, the increased demand over the next few weeks has meant several airlines are cancelling flights.

Both Easyjet and TUI are making their already poor reputations worse by cancelling a lot of flights last-minute.

If your flight is cancelled, you are due an alternative or a full refund. Plus, if it's less than 14 days before departure, you could be owed additional compensation.

The minimum compensation for a flight is £125, and that's if it is a short-haul flight where you have rebooked and the new flight lands two hours later than you originally were supposed to land. The compensation can go up to £600 for long haul flights with longer delays.

Twitter is not reporting long queues

While I have grown to hate social media in recent years, you can still rely on it for live information from furious customers.

At the moment, if you search for Gatwick Airport and then filter by the latest Tweets there are not many angry Tweeters.

Gatwick has reported that they are experiencing high passenger numbers.

However, the small number of Tweets I can find from travellers seem to indicate that it isn't as bad as other airports.

User, @hughegarty, pointed out that the queues were very long but it only took them 40 minutes to get through.

Press Coverage & Vueling

It would seem that most of the bad coverage Gatwick is currently receiving is due to airline cancellations and how badly the airlines are dealing with it.

It was reported that passengers were stranded for six hours this morning due to Vueling cancelling a flight. It seems like passengers had checked in their bags before the flight was cancelled, which led to chaos.

Gatwick airport estimated security waiting times

One of the few things Manchester airport has done right recently is implementing a basic system of reporting estimated security waiting times.

When I checked early Tuesday morning, all three terminals were reporting 30-60 minute wait times. At 1pm, they are back down to 15-30 minutes.

Sadly, it doesn't look like any other airport has implemented this system.

Google popular times and live data

Live data from Birmingham Airport

I originally wrote about airport queue times as I thought it might be possible to use Google live data and its historical popular times to predict how bad it was going to be.

Unfortunately, this wasn't that useful as the historical data doesn't correlate very well with the current issues. The live data just tells you it is busier than normal, which was already obvious.

In the case of Gatwick Airport, Google does not show me the live or historical data at the moment.

Flight Times

Again, I had previously theorised that you could look at the historical flights to see if there were regular delays which could indicate persistent problems.

During my trip to Porto, that theory was a massive failure; my flight was delayed two hours.

All I learned was that flights later in the day are much more likely to get delayed because there is a knock-on effect with the incoming flights throughout the day.

Overall Advice

For the Jubilee week, my best advice would be to assume the absolute worst-case scenario.

In the case of Gatwick Airport, the biggest issue currently appears to be flight cancellations, which you can't do much about.

It appears airlines are woefully understaffed, so I would try and avoid checking in luggage if at all possible. We paid for checked luggage to Porto, then decided to use hand luggage and accepted that we wasted money paying for checked.

Twitter is your best bet for live reporting. News websites (including my own) will always lag behind what actual travellers are experiencing.

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