Busy roads and airports expected over late-May UK bank holiday weekend


The start of the May half-term holiday for many schools will result in “hectic” roads and the most flights departing the UK since before the pandemic, according to industry estimates.

About 19m car journeys for leisure are expected on Britain’s roads over the next four days, and more than 3,000 planes are scheduled to take off on Friday.

The RAC is preparing for the busiest late-May bank holiday weekend for motoring since 2019, with traffic likely to peak on Friday afternoon when leisure trips and commuting coincide.

Fine weather is forecast for the UK-wide three-day weekend – which coincides with the start of the half-term break for most schools in England and Wales – potentially bringing more people out to the coast and countryside.

According to the analysts Inrix, there will be severe delays on the M25, the M5 in Somerset and the M6 in Cheshire.

The RAC spokesperson Rod Dennis said: “With the travel restrictions imposed during Covid now thankfully a distant memory, it’s clear drivers’ desire to get away has been reignited, with our figures for this coming weekend suggesting leisure traffic volumes will be close to what we last saw in 2019.”

He added: “With the Met Office currently predicting largely settled weather with above-average temperatures, we’re expecting this to be a hectic period on major roads.”

Passengers flying with British Airways from Heathrow on Thursday and Friday faced significant disruption after more than 150 flights were cancelled because of “technical issues”.

A spokesperson for the airline said on Friday: “While the vast majority of our flights continue to operate today, we have cancelled some of our short-haul flights from Heathrow due to the knock-on effect of a technical issue that we experienced yesterday.

“We’ve apologised to customers whose flights have been affected and offered them the option to rebook to an alternative flight with us or another carrier, or request a refund.”

Unusually, rail passengers have a bank holiday weekend free of planned stoppages. There are very few major engineering works, meaning most British rail services will run normally.

However, there will be a series of rail strikes in the second half of the school holiday week, with drivers from Aslef out on 31 May and 3 June, and train crews in the RMT union on strike on 2 June. Most services across England are likely to be halted when drivers walk out, with severe disruption during the RMT action.

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Heathrow airport, meanwhile, vowed that passengers would not experience any disruption from the three days of strikes that started on Thursday, as holiday departures peak on Friday.

The chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, said passengers “should not be concerned about strike action by Unite over the half-term getaway”.

The strikes, which also affected visitors to the UK for King Charles’s coronation earlier this month, are the result of a dispute over pay increases for security staff.

According to data from the aviation analytics firm Cirium, more than 3,000 planes will take off from UK airports on Friday, the highest daily figure since December 2019.

About 6% more flights will operate over the bank holiday weekend than a year ago, potentially flying out more than 2 million passengers from Friday to Monday.

Dublin, Amsterdam, Palma, Málaga and Alicante are the most popular international destinations.