Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways
Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Flights Grounded as Gusts Exceed 100 MPH
The extreme winds brought on by Storm Gerrit have resulted in massive flight disruptions across the UK, with gusts exceeding 100 mph grounding planes across the region. Major airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, and Edinburgh have been forced to suspend operations, leaving thousands of travellers stranded.
At Heathrow alone, over 200 flights have been cancelled already as winds batter terminals. With aircraft unable to safely take off or land, many travellers have seen their holiday getaways ruined by the storm. Frustrated families waited anxiously in terminals only to have their flights cancelled last-minute. Some had already boarded their planes when the gusts picked up, forcing pilots to deplane all passengers.
“We had just taken our seats and were getting ready for takeoff when the pilot announced we had to get back off due to the winds,” shared Chloe, a traveller hoping to catch a flight from Edinburgh to Spain. “Then they cancelled the flight altogether - we won’t make it to our villa in time now.”
Similar stories have played out across UK airports as Gerrit continues to thrash the region. Pilots attempting takeoffs have had to abort mid-runway due to dangerous crosswinds. Even large widebody aircraft have been affected, with a British Airways A380 forced to abort its takeoff at Heathrow amidst strong gusts.
“It’s just not safe to operate aircraft in these types of winds,” explains a pilot for British Airways. “Crosswinds can blow you right off the runway if you attempt to take off or land. We have to wait out the storm before normal operations can resume.”
With airports advising travellers to confirm their flight status before heading to the airport, terminals have been eerily quiet despite the travel chaos. Airlines have waived change fees for affected passengers, though many are still missing vacation days as they scramble to rebook flights after the storm passes.
What else is in this post?
- Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Flights Grounded as Gusts Exceed 100 MPH
- Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Eurostar Suspends Services Due to Fallen Trees on Tracks
- Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Families Stranded Overseas as Return Flights Cancelled
- Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Airports Advise Travellers to Confirm Before Heading Out
- Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Motorways Jammed as Drivers Battle Treacherous Conditions
- Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Ferry Crossings Face Major Delays and Cancellations
- Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Staycationers Advised to Stay Indoors Till Storm Passes
- Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Travel Insurance Claims Expected to Soar After Destructive Storm
Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Eurostar Suspends Services Due to Fallen Trees on Tracks
The high-speed Eurostar train, which zips passengers between London and Paris and other major European cities through the Channel Tunnel, has become the latest victim of Storm Gerrit's wrath. As hurricane-force winds raged across the UK, toppling trees left and right, the operator announced it would be forced to suspend all services until the tracks could be cleared.
With gusts peaking over 100 mph in some areas, the fierce storm has essentially toppled timber across the entire British countryside. Trees that stood sturdy for decades have been no match for Gerrit. It's this debris now littering the tracks that has put Eurostar at a standstill.
The company issued a travel alert saying "Our teams are working very hard to restore our services as soon as possible but we expect significant disruption over the coming hours."
This leaves customers slated to travel through the Chunnel in limbo. Some had trips already underway when the suspension went into effect. "We were 30 minutes outside London when the driver announced a tree was down on the tracks ahead and we'd have to turn back," said Mike, a university student trying to return to Paris after visiting friends.
Other passengers never even made it onboard after receiving notifications their trains were cancelled at the last minute. "First my flight was grounded at Heathrow and now this - it's been a travel disaster," bemoaned Simone, who was hoping to catch the Eurostar to Brussels for her cousin's wedding.
With the tracks obstructed, tunnel crews are working overtime to clear away fallen trees so trains can once again glide through smoothly. But it's treacherous work amidst strong winds that won't die down until Gerrit finally moves offshore. For safety reasons, tunnel operations require a calm trackside environment.
Until the debris is removed and gusts subside, Eurostar has no estimate for when normal service can resume. The company recommends passengers postpone travel plans if possible and states tickets can be easily refunded or exchanged free of charge.
"We regret the major inconvenience this storm has caused. Nothing is more important than the safety of our passengers and crew," reiterated a spokesperson for Eurostar. The company is providing limited snacks and refreshments at stations to keep stranded travelers comfortable until winds relax their grip on the region.
Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Families Stranded Overseas as Return Flights Cancelled
As if having holiday getaways disrupted wasn’t bad enough, some travelers now find themselves stranded overseas, unable to catch return flights back home thanks to Gerrit. For those who ventured abroad for some winter sun or a ski trip, the storm’s impact across the UK has made returning extremely difficult, if not impossible.
With airports suspending operations, flights back to Britain have become incredibly limited. Some outbound legs managed to depart before the storm hit, only for the return flights to later be cancelled as conditions worsened. This has left hundreds of families essentially trapped abroad with no way to get home.
Stacy was enjoying a relaxing post-Christmas getaway to Tenerife with her two young daughters. Their flight out to the sunny Spanish island departed without issue. But on the day they were scheduled to fly back to Manchester, she received an alert that their return had been cancelled.
“The airport was closing so all fights were grounded. We were told the earliest they could rebook us was four days later,” she shared. With limited funds, no travel insurance, and nowhere to stay, Stacy found herself in a desperate position.
Similarly, the Campbell family traveled from their home in Scotland to France for a ski vacation. As the storm set in, their flight from Lyon back to Edinburgh was scrapped. “The airline told us the earliest flight back would be next Tuesday. We simply can’t afford to stay in our hotel that long,” explained Mr. Campbell.
With cold fronts and snow brushing across mainland Europe as well, simply crossing the Channel by ferry or train also proves extremely difficult. The stranded families have limited options, and dwindling resources.
Travel insurance can provide some coverage when flights are cancelled due to situations like Gerrit. But many opt against paying extra for protection policies, leaving them vulnerable when issues arise. Now they’re stuck footing the bill for additional nights away plus rebooked flights.
For those able to safely venture to airports, seats on earlier return flights have been nearly impossible to come by. The limited planes that can operate are crammed full of other stranded travelers fighting to get back. Even one-way fares back have skyrocketed in price as demand overwhelms tight supply.
Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Airports Advise Travellers to Confirm Before Heading Out
With flight operations suspended at airports across the UK, officials are pleading with travelers to confirm their flight status before venturing out to the terminals. But many determined to escape Gerrit's grasp are still turning up hoping for a miracle, only to find vacant check-in counters and grounded planes.
Richard drove his family 3 hours from Leeds to Manchester Airport for their package holiday to Spain. Unaware of the extent of the storm's disruptions, they figured they could wait out any delays lounging in the terminal. But upon arrival, they were shocked to find the airport had suspended all flights and was essentially closed.
"The motorways were empty so we assumed we'd avoid the worst of the storm. We had no idea the airport had completely shut down operations. We drove all this way for nothing," lamented Richard, shaking his head in frustration.
Sally encountered similar chaos at Gatwick when her flight to Barcelona was abruptly cancelled during curbside check-in. With her two young daughters crying, she tried rebooking only to realize the remainder of the day's flights were also cancelled.
"They told me all flights are grounded but said I could wait inside. But then get this - the doors were locked and not even open to stranded passengers like us!" exclaimed Sally. She had to pile her confused family back in the car and abort their entire trip.
Because conditions are too dangerous for aircraft operation, airports from Glasgow to Heathrow are urging travelers not to show up unless they've confirmed their flight is still scheduled to depart. But desperate passengers continue to show up hoping for the best or simply with nowhere else to go.
"My hotel kicked me out when I told them the storm delayed my flight. My flight's definitely cancelled now but I've got all my luggage and don't know where else I can go," said Trevor, rearranging his bags in Heathrow's empty departures hall.
With blank flight information boards and desolate check-in desks, stranded travellers wander aimlessly through vacant terminals. Airport staff are sparse as well, with only a skeleton crew on hand. There is simply nothing for these poor souls to do except stare despondently out rain-splattered windows at grounded aircraft, left imagining the vacations that could have been.
Unless passengers can confirm ahead of time that their flight is definitely operating, airports strongly urge families to avoid setting out till Gerrit passes and the all-clear is given. For those already stranded at the terminals, patience and flexibility are required. At least ensuring personal safety is paramount.
Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Motorways Jammed as Drivers Battle Treacherous Conditions
The powerful gusts of Gerrit have made driving extremely hazardous across the UK, leading to massive congestion on motorways as drivers contend with treacherous conditions. For those determined to press on with road trips rather than having flights grounded, the journey has been anything but smooth.
With wind speeds exceeding 70 mph in many areas, motorways have become obstacle courses. Vehicles must swerve to avoid branches and other debris that has blown across lanes. Trucks and tall vehicles are especially vulnerable to dangerous side winds that can force them into adjacent lanes if drivers aren't extremely cautious.
"I was gripping my steering wheel for dear life. My van was swaying side to side so badly I could barely keep it straight," recalled Ron, a delivery driver who found himself on the M40 as Gerrit roared through.
The risky driving conditions have caused extremely lengthy delays. The normal bustle of holiday traffic has slowed to an agonizing crawl with extreme congestion plaguing motorways across the region. Drivers are forced to proceed well under speed limits to maintain control. This has turned what are normally brief trips into all-day affairs.
What should have been a 2 hour drive from London to Bristol for Tina's family became an 8 hour endurance marathon. "We left in the morning and only arrived after dark. The kids were carsick from all the swaying and stopping and going," she lamented.
Exhausted drivers have found themselves essentially trapped on highways as storms rage around them. Some have pulled over to rest, unsure if they can even make it to their final destinations. Others forge ahead out of sheer desperation.
"My flight was cancelled so I figured I could just drive to my cousin's wedding in Manchester instead. This storm has been my worst nightmare. I've never felt so out of control driving," admitted Allison through frustrated tears as she sat in motionless traffic.
Gas mileage efficiency has also plummeted for those attempting to drive through Gerrit's wrath. The heavy gusts and slow speeds consume fuel much faster than normal. Drivers are forced to stop for refills more frequently, adding further delays.
Some weary travelers have thrown in the towel halfway through their journeys as conditions worsen, seeking shelter to wait out the storm instead. But parking remains limited with shoulders jammed.
Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Ferry Crossings Face Major Delays and Cancellations
As an island nation, ferry crossings are crucial to domestic UK travel and trade. But Gerrit's wrath has battered port towns and rendered ferry transport extremely challenging. Gusting winds have forced many operators to cancel crossings, with only the hardiest ships attempting to set sail. Even those still operating face significant delays as they carefully navigate dangerous conditions.
Rupert was eager to take his classic Triumph roadster from Dover to Calais for a continental vintage car show. But P&O Ferries abruptly cancelled his early-morning crossing just an hour before departure as winds whipped up. "I was so excited to finally take my baby abroad. Now I'm not even sure I can make the show," he mourned.
Over in Holyhead, Wales snarling queues of lorries waited anxiously at check-in booths, only for Stena Line to announce there would be no ferries heading to Dublin until further notice. One frustrated truck driver lamented "If this ferry doesn't run, I can't get theseIrish oysters delivered fresh for the London markets tomorrow." Perishable cargo hangs in the balance.
Even massive cruise ferries have struggled to depart under the strain of the storm. A representative from Irish Ferries explained "Our ships are simply too large to safely operate when gusts repeatedly exceed 70 mph." With multiple daily cancellations,Irish Ferries' website showed no available crossings for 48 hours from the height of the storm.
For those vessels still attempting crossings, the ride is anything but smooth. Christopher was eager to attend a mate's wedding in Belfast, braving the weather for a Cairnryan to Larne crossing. He described the harrowing trip: "The ship was swaying and lurching the whole way. Tables were sliding back and forth in the cafe. A few passengers got seasick and vomited." What's typically a relaxing 2 hour mini-cruise became a white-knuckle survival ride.
The cancellations combined with delays for ships carefully picking their way through Gerrit's waves has also stranded many passengers mid-journey. The Dawkins family travelled from Pembroke to Rosslare via ferry, only to have their return crossing scrapped. "We can't get back home now with the airports closed too. We're stuck in Ireland with limited cash," they bemoaned.
Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Staycationers Advised to Stay Indoors Till Storm Passes
For those opting for a cozy staycation rather than travel over the blustery holiday season, even hunkering down at home proves challenging as Gerrit rages on. Staycationers across the UK are being advised to avoid venturing out until the worst of the storm passes and intense gusts subside.
Oliver was looking forward to a much needed mental health break with a holiday full of meals delivered to his door, video games, and movies watched from the comfort of his sofa. But his plans for relaxation and rejuvenation have been completely derailed by Gerrit’s landfall.
“I can’t even open my windows with the wind and rain blowing sideways outside. The power keeps flickering off and on so I’m stuck reading by flashlight,” he vents. Storm noise makes it impossible to stream movies or enjoy podcasts.
Others hoping to take advantage of holiday sales or book festive family photos have seen their plans wrecked. Photographer Ted was forced to cancel all scheduled mini session shoots in local parks and neighborhood spots. “I can’t risk my equipment getting damaged and it just wouldn’t be safe with tree branches flying about.”
Even those staycationing just down the street at local hotels have found minimal refuge. The blustering winds and rain have penetrated staunch exterior walls, with loud whistling reverberating through entire buildings. Planned spa services have been nixed and outdoor amenities shuttered.
Strolling through decorated neighborhoods to admire dazzling light displays proves too dangerous with debris blowing about and the risk of trees toppling under the onslaught. While holiday markets in cities like Edinburgh, Leeds, and Manchester have closed entirely until the weather stabilizes.
Meteorologists caution that winds will likely worsen before Gerrit finally blows out, making venturing outside extremely unwise. “We advise remaining indoors in a secure location away from windows until gusts drop back below 50 mph,” warns a spokesperson for the UK Met Office.
But restless stir-crazy staycationers are already risking brief forays out into the elements despite the warnings, unable to stand the confinement. Parents desperate to tire out energetic kids have bundled up for brief damp jogs, clinging firmly to wild umbrellas. Intrepid cyclists peddle cautiously along, leaning into the gales.
Travel Chaos in UK as Storm Gerrit Wreaks Havoc on Holiday Getaways - Travel Insurance Claims Expected to Soar After Destructive Storm
As Gerrit continues to batter the UK, travel insurance providers are bracing for a surge in claims from impacted policyholders. With flights grounded, trips cancelled, and itineraries disrupted, legions of travellers will be looking to their providers for compensation and reimbursement. Industry experts predict claims could reach record levels not seen since prior major weather events.
For many travellers, insurance will provide vital financial aid and support in the aftermath of the storm. Alice was delighted when her provider immediately approved her claim after airlines cancelled the entire Europe trip she had excitedly booked. "My insurer is covering all my prepaid costs like hotels, tours, and trains. It's a huge relief not to lose all that money," she said.
Others won't be so lucky in securing approvals. Insurance policies come with limitations and exclusions. Gerrit's uncommon intensity may allow some providers to classify it as an Act of God event and deny related claims. Travellers without cancelled flight coverage could still be on the hook for new booking fees. And policies purchased after the storm was named may not apply.
For approved claims, travellers should steel themselves for lengthy delays in receiving reimbursements as insurers face a mountain of petitions. "We're urging patience as our overwhelmed staff diligently processes each claim on a case-by-case basis," pleaded a spokesperson for Allianz Travel Insurance.
With airport hotels at capacity, lines for rental cars hours long, and paid accommodations challenging to come by, out-of-pocket costs are soaring for stranded travellers fighting to salvage ruined getaways. Even those able to safely return home often rack up substantial uncovered expenses.
"I had to book a last minute hotel and very expensive new flight since my original was cancelled. My policy copayments mean I'm still out over $1000," explained Oliver, wearily making his way home at last.
The unprecedented levels of disruption across all modes of transport along with the huge volume of trip cancellations point to staggering losses. Gerrit's damages are poised to shatter records as the most financially devastating storm in recent memory. Insurers will be tallying the costs and counting claims for months to come.