The aviation industry is struggling to cope with the rise in demand for travel amid a severe staffing shortage.
Matt Wheeler, 37, a train driver from Nottingham, said he and his partner had to make emergency childcare arrangements after finding out their easyJet flight home from Amsterdam had been cancelled at 3.30am on Monday.
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He said: “It’s a farce. We now have to try and arrange family members to pick our kids up from school/childminders, have them overnight and take them to school tomorrow.”
Mr Wheeler said they have been put in a hotel and booked onto a Tuesday morning flight, but added: “It’s the lack of communication and no one at the airport to speak to that’s annoying – and the fact this could happen again tomorrow.”
After cancelling dozens of flights over the weekend, easyJet scrapped a further 37 on Monday, with Gatwick the worst affected.
These included flights from destinations such as Bilbao, Madrid and Seville in Spain, Milan and Palermo in Italy, Geneva and Zurich in Switzerland, and Malta.
An easyJet spokeswoman said: “EasyJet is operating over 1,700 flights today carrying almost 300,000 customers.
“Unfortunately, due to the ongoing challenging operating environment around 37 flights have been cancelled today ahead of customers arriving at the airport.
“We are very sorry and fully understand the disruption this will have caused for our customers.”
British Airways axed more than 100 short-haul flights at Heathrow on Monday, although the airline stressed that passengers affected were given advance notice.
Tui Airways is cancelling six daily flights at Manchester.
Some 225 departures from UK airports were cancelled between Monday and Friday last week, according to aviation data firm Cirium.
That compares with 24 during the corresponding half-term week last year.
Travel consultancy The PC Agency estimated that at least 15,000 passengers were affected by “last-minute changes” to flights on Sunday.
Chief executive Paul Charles said this caused “major knock-on effects” and “it will take three days to clear the backlog”.
He told the PA news agency: “We’re now seeing the impact of the weekend’s cancellations with knock-on effects for tens of thousands of travellers.
“So many flights were never rescheduled after the pandemic, so there often isn’t the frequency of flights to get passengers back quickly if they are affected.
“We’re going to see a large number of compensation claims from those stuck abroad.
“Sadly it can take three days to get flights back to normal and get people back.”
UK airline passengers have been hit by disruption for several months due to a lack of staff after letting thousands of people go during the coronavirus pandemic.
Airlines, airports and ground handling companies repeatedly called for sector-specific financial support during the Covid-19 crisis as Government travel restrictions suppressed demand.
They are now struggling to recruit new staff and have their security checks processed.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has rejected calls to open the door to more “cheap” overseas workers in a bid to relieve the pressure on the aviation sector.