Time to fix the date for Easter to ease the airport squeeze

The man who pays his way

As far as I can tell, the travel industry was not represented at the First Council of Nicaea. This event in AD325 was where, you will recall, Easter was defined as the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox.

Today, the early Christians' decision generates consternation each spring among airlines, holiday companies and travellers.

The commemoration of the resurrection is the holiest Christian festival. But if you don't mind me saying so, the decision about the date of Easter Sunday looks arbitrary. Indeed, the Orthodox church computes a different date to commemorate Christ's sacrifice, and will mark the event during the first week in May.

Eighteen centuries after the historic meeting near present-day Istanbul, our early Easter places huge stress on the limited resources of the travel industry – and the traveller. Over this weekend, Britain's roads, railways and (particularly) airports will be overstretched. You may reasonably point out that any weekend when Friday and Monday are additional days off will cause a spike in bookings. But when Easter falls in March, the consequences are dismal.

This year, the latest plausible date when the school holidays can begin is Good Friday, on 28 March. That means the weekend coincides with the great end-of-term getaway. Add in the pressure from late-season skiers, and the number of people who regard the UK as simply too cold before April, and there are too many passengers chasing too few planes.

The solution: fix Easter as the second Sunday in April, with school holidays beginning the previous Monday. A couple of weeks closer to summer will improve the chance that Britain's weather will be bright rather than bleak, which will be excellent news for the UK economy.

Those who choose to make a four-day break will not add to the congestion, because they can depart in the middle of the school holidays. If you happen to be the Archbishop of Canterbury, congratulations on the new job and please take note. The rest of us using Britain's airports must simply pray that the experience won't be too grim.

Maiden flight from MAN to LHR

It all goes weird between Manchester and London this weekend. On Sunday, Virgin Atlantic finds itself competing head-on with two transport enterprises. One is the traditional foe, British Airways. The other is, er, Virgin Trains.

At 6.50am on Easter Sunday morning, Sir Richard Branson's airline returns to short-haul flying: from Manchester to Heathrow. Or rather Virgin Atlantic charters a plane, plus crew, from Aer Lingus to operate the flight on its behalf. In April, routes from Aberdeen and Edinburgh to Heathrow will follow. Virgin's two previous attempts at short haul, from Gatwick to Maastricht and Heathrow to Athens, proved unsuccessful. So why is the airline using precious slots at Heathrow for domestic shuttles?

The Manchester route is a defensive response to the takeover of BMI by BA, and the unhelpful geography of Heathrow. Since last year, all Manchester flights to and from the UK's main hub have been concentrated at Terminal 5. This is the BA-only facility at the extreme west of Heathrow. Transfers to other Terminal 5 flights are easy. But transfers to Virgin's flights from Terminal 3, in the central area, are a real pain.

Given that BA and Virgin offer very similar fares and equally high inflight standards, business travellers bound for long-haul destinations fly Manchester-Heathrow on BA and then board a bus to switch to Virgin Atlantic. The new link is not ideal, since it serves Terminal 1, but at least it is within walking distance and allows Sir Richard Branson's airline to sell all-Virgin tickets.

For more on the new route, plus BA's decision to abandon the Gatwick-Manchester link, and other changes, see this week's Inside Travel.

Is 60 the new 40?

Manchester airport will struggle to cope this weekend, according to one of its biggest airlines, easyJet. The carrier has warned passengers that Manchester – as well as Luton airport – will be "operating at full capacity" over the weekend.

"There is a likelihood that there will be congestion at security screening due to increased passenger volumes," says the airline.

Accordingly easyJet has spent the past week telling travellers that its check-in deadlines have changed: "To help you we will be opening check-in at three hours before departure and will close one hour prior to departure."

Ahead of a stressful weekend, easyJet told passengers that the airport goalposts had moved: the usual 40-minute check-in deadline at both airports was being increased to 60 minutes this weekend. Could it jeopardise the travel plans of thousands of travellers using Manchester and Luton? No, because the customary 40-minute limit remains. An easyJet spokeswoman described the warning as "just a note to encourage people to check in early and allow more time. Check-in won't close early".

A movable feast, indeed. Warning passengers about possible airport delays, and urging them to allow extra time, is commendable. But easyJet was actually misleading passengers, and no doubt increasing stress levels, by exaggerating the risk of their missing a flight.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Mid Weight

    £15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To support their continued grow...

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    Day In a Page

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test