Given everything the industry has had to deal with of late, how galling to see the first weekend of peak summer bring 15-hour delays at the port of Dover with 12-mile tailbacks for families heading to France by ferry.
Small wonder P&O Ferries chief executive Helen Deeble hit out at the failure to increase security staff numbers at the French border as “completely unacceptable”, insisting this “must never be allowed to happen again”.
No one would want inadequate security, especially in the current climate. But did the mass departures on the first weekend of school holidays in England and Wales really take anyone by surprise? Abta helpfully publicised the fact last Friday, estimating 2.3 million would be heading abroad over the weekend. Perhaps the association should add the French authorities to its contacts list.
There were also delays in excess of three hours at Heathrow immigration, with reports that extra Border Force staff had been redeployed from Channel ports to airports to help out. The port of Dover must have been pleased by that.
Interestingly, Abta’s estimate of 2.3 million departures was up on the 2.1 million the association forecast for the comparable weekend last year. It was also in line with almost every market indicator, suggesting holiday demand has not suffered despite the spate of terror attacks, the exchange rate of sterling, the post-EU referendum uncertainty or the collapse of Lowcost Travel Group.
We have all the latest on that failure on the following pages – including the only interview with the Lowcost boss himself. Let’s hope fears it could have a knock-on effect on other businesses prove unfounded.
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