Bill Gardner, The Daily Telegraph, December 17, 2015
Airports and railway stations are preparing for their busiest ever festive season as the annual exodus begins a full week before Christmas Day.
Record numbers of passengers are expected to flee Britain for a Christmas getaway this year, raising fears of travel chaos at crowded airports and railway stations.
Airports including Heathrow and Gatwick are preparing for the busiest festive spell in their history as the annual exodus begins earlier than ever before.
According to new data, passenger numbers will start to swell on Thursday, a full week before Christmas Day. The next day, 400,000 people will fly out of Britain for a holiday abroad, the Independent reported.
In total 5,250,617 people will depart from and arrive into the UK over the festive season to spend Christmas with loved ones.
Millions more will take to the roads to visit friends and family, while train services will also be stretched. Engineering work on the West Coast line means Virgin Trains will not operate to or from London Euston from 25 to 28 December, while many East Coast Trains services are already sold out.
Travellers will be hoping for smoother journeys than last year, when gale force winds and flooding left thousands of passengers stranded in airport lounges and railway terminals.
At Gatwick Airport, armed police were reportedly called in to calm furious passengers who faced the prospect of missing Christmas with their loved ones.
However this year's earlier start means the numbers of passengers will be spread out over a week rather than one or two days. This should help airports, railway stations and ferry terminals cope with the record rush and avoid long delays, the aviation information service OAG said.
Edinburgh airport expects this Thursday to be its busiest day of the Christmas season. Tenerife is reported as the top winter-sun destination, with Amsterdam the leading city break.
Britain's second-busiest airport Gatwick said December 21 will be its busiest day, with 64,000 passengers expected to depart for key destinations including Geneva, Barcelona and Dublin. This is a rise of 10 per cent on last year – although numbers were down due to a disastrous flood on Christmas Eve.
More than 37,000 passengers will leave Stansted next Monday December 22, the latest peak of the major airports.
Heathrow declined to reveal its forecast numbers, but Friday is expected to be its busiest day. A city break in New York is the airport’s most popular trip, followed by winter sun in Dubai.
Manchester airport is also expecting record numbers on Friday, with a short hop to Dublin once again the most popular trip.
On the ferries, passengers are expected to start sailing away for Christmas on Thursday to destinations including Dover, Calais, Ostend and Dunkirk.
The early start is mirrored on the trains, with Eurostar preparing for peak travel to Paris and Brussels on December 19, 23 and 30.
This article was written by Bill Gardner from The Daily Telegraph and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.