The staffing headache that dogged independent retailers as a result of the flight chaos was easing as C-Store went to press.

Many retailers were forced to work extra long hours filling in for absent staff, and some had to cancel long-anticipated holidays abroad.

Spar Epworth retailer Geoff Tegg had been due to fly to Dubai. "I now have no idea when we will re-book for, it's a real shame," he said. "On the upside sales have been good and fuel volumes buoyant as people took to the roads rather than the skies."

Budgens retailer Jonathan James was stranded in Dubai for over a week. "Fortunately, I have some fantastic managers so wasn't too worried about the day-to-day running of the stores. However, my Soham store was halfway through a £250,000 refit so I was pretty anxious about how that was going."

Arduous journeys home also left many store staff in need of another holiday. Budgens retailer Guy Warner said that one of his staff members had endured a 36-hour journey from Spain to get home.

On the other hand, the chaos provided a great talking point, retailers said.