Thousands of air passengers had to contend with delays and cancellations today because of a strike by European air traffic controllers.
Travellers to France were the worst hit on a day when parts of the UK’s biggest airport – Heathrow – were reduced to a ghost town.
British Airways cancelled all but four of its 126 flights into and out of France today.
At Gatwick airport, West Sussex, 40 flights were cancelled and others were delayed. EasyJet, Air Portugal and Britannia were among airlines which cancelled flights.
Passengers at Manchester Airport faced delays of between two and three hours.
At Terminal Two at Heathrow in west London, Air France desks stood empty of people, bar a skeleton staff.
Passengers at European ticket desks in Terminal One found themselves not having to queue as usual to check-in and book in baggage.
Airport shops, restaurants and businesses, which were usually teeming with passengers, reported a marked down-turn in sales and customers.
Dal Gill, manager of Boots, said: “Usually between 10 and 11 in the morning there’s a real rush of people – it’s one of our busiest times. But it’s very, very quiet.
“I think people have seen it on the news and if their flights have been cancelled, they’ve just not come.”
Staff at a Heathrow Bureau de Change also said it had been one of their quietest days yet.
One cashier said: “It’s been dead, absolutely dead this morning.”
At Heathrow, Peter Mannering, 40, from Sevenoaks, Kent, was travelling to a summer camp in Cyprus with a party of children from a school for the blind.
“It was a scheduled flight and it all seems to be all right at the moment, so that’s good,” he said.
Others to get away with no delays from Heathrow were Richard Desouza, 27, and partner Angela Tyrrell, 28, who departed for a holiday in Cyprus.
A Gatwick spokeswoman said: “Despite all the problems we managed to get away 3,000 people in one hour mid-morning and that’s pretty good.
“We were able to get away some Wednesday lights on Tuesday while others have been put back until after the strike.”
At Manchester, five Air France flights and some British Airways flights were cancelled.
An airport spokeswoman added: “Some flights are also delayed and passengers are experiencing delays of two or three hours.
“It is mainly France and Greece that are affected and we are working with the airlines to re-schedule flights.”
While low-cost carrier Buzz cancelled 50 flights today, BA also scrapped 38 flights to other European countries in addition to its French cancellations.
The BA cancelled flights were 10 to Italy, eight to Switzerland, 12 to Spain, four to Germany, two to Belgium and two to Luxembourg.
Further travel chaos is expected tomorrow with an estimated 80,000 Britons likely to be hit by a 24-hour general strike in Spain.
A BA spokeswoman said: “We are not sure at this stage if the situation will be worse tomorrow. We are providing information as soon as it becomes available.”
A spokeswoman for the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) said Palma Airport on Majorca, would be closed tomorrow.
She added: “Tour operators are making big contingency plans and doing everything in their power to stop delays. It is a big problem to deal with.”
Abta recommended that travellers should contact tour operators to check on times of flights.
Thirty flights were cancelled, and others delayed, at Stansted airport, Essex.
A spokeswoman added: “We have not experienced any congestion as most passengers seemed to have heeded warnings not to turn up.
“We are geared for problems tomorrow, with 10 Go flights to Spain likely to be affected as well as some operated by Buzz.”
Disruption at Glasgow airport today was confined to three-hour delays to two flights to the Greek island of Rhodes.
“We have eight flights due to go to Spain tomorrow and we fear there could be disruption,” said a spokeswoman for the airport.
Scotland’s airports were today facing only minor disruption as a result of the strikes.
Seven flights – all bound for Paris from either Glasgow or Edinburgh – were cancelled and two holiday flights from Glasgow to Greece were delayed.
No flights from Aberdeen airport were affected.
A spokeswoman for Scottish Airports said: “We have not been badly affected in comparison to some airports down south.
“We believe that because people were aware of today’s problems, many passengers have made alternative arrangements.”
However, Scottish airports could be hit tomorrow if Spanish flights were affected by the strike there.