Holidaymakers heading to the airport had to abandon taxis and drag their luggage due to jams caused by festival traffic and road repairs.
Congestion built up on the A453 in Leicestershire, near East Midlands Airport, due to the Download music festival and nearby pothole repairs.
A taxi driver said it took two hours to complete a 20-minute trip.
Highways England and the airport advised people to allow extra time for their journey.
Taxi driver Liam Chapman, who was heading to the airport to pick up a passenger, said he saw about 60 people walking along the A453 with suitcases.
“It has to be a two-mile walk and a lot of people have big cases,” he said.
“People were angry and some lost hope of getting their flight.
“It is worse for the passengers who have driven to the airport because they can’t abandon their cars, they have to miss their flight.
“It is usually relatively bad [the Download traffic] but never this bad.”
The 35-year-old suggested the dual carriageway should be divided into airport traffic in one lane and festival traffic in the other.
Dean Hughes, of Highways England, said staff and festival organisers were working together to ensure traffic “runs as safely and smoothly as possible”.
“We are monitoring traffic flow to ensure festival traffic is directed to the most appropriate route,” he said.
He advised festival-goers to follow signs to Download and not the sat nav.
Festival-goers also reported long queues at the Download entrance at Donington Park.
The music at Download runs from Friday to Sunday, but the campsite and some entertainment opened earlier.
The BBC has contacted Download for a comment on the travel chaos.