UK flight cancellations continue during Easter due to staff shortages

Airports, airlines and much of the aviation industry dismissed or furloughed many workers when travel ground to a half during the pandemic

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Thursday, April 07, 2022, 12:47 PM IST
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British Airways aircraft lined up at Heathrow International Airport, in London | AFP

Passengers attempting to jet off on their Easter holidays encountered hours-long security queues and delays, as well as last-minute flight cancellations, at airports across the UK.

EasyJet and British Airways have both had to axe hundreds of services over the last few days, largely citing staff shortages caused by sickness and a need to ramp up recruitment amid a renewed surge in demand for travel.

British Airways cancelled four flights at Heathrow Airport on Wednesday due to Covid-related absences, on top of 74 services previously withdrawn.

The airline had already signalled it intention to cancel most of the flights following a decision to reduce its schedule until the end of May.

But recent high levels of staff absence due to Covid have meant further flights being called off ahead of Easter.

EasyJet cancelled about 30 flights at Gatwick Airport on Wednesday.

Thousands of holidaymakers have seen their Easter getaways - the first holiday since the end of Covid travel restrictions - delayed or cancelled because airlines and airports do not have enough staff to meet the recovery in demand.

BA withdrew six flights at the last minute on Tuesday as a result of Covid absences.

The latest cancellations mark another day of widespread disruption for airline passengers, many of whom are taking advantage of the lifting of travel restrictions to get away on Easter holidays.

More than 1,000 UK flights have been cancelled by airlines in recent days because of high levels of crew absences related to Covid-19.

Demand for foreign travel has soared after the easing of almost all Covid travel restrictions but it comes as high levels of Covid cases are exacerbating existing staff shortages caused by large numbers of aviation workers being laid off during the pandemic.

EasyJet had previously said it expected to cancel hundreds more flights during the week because of staff absences. It said at the weekend it had tried to offset shortages by rostering standby crew but was forced to make fresh cancellations at short notice.

Coronavirus is currently surging across Europe, with rates reaching levels last seen at the peak of the Omicron wave, resulting in an increase in employee sickness and understaffing.

EasyJet cancelled 62 flights scheduled for Monday, after axing at least 222 flights across Saturday and Sunday.

Some holidaymakers reported being stuck abroad with no explanation or alternative route home offered by the airline.

A spokesman for the airline said: “As a result of the current high rates of Covid infections across Europe, like all businesses easyJet is experiencing higher than usual levels of employee sickness.”

The airline attempted to limit the effect on passengers by focusing cancellations on routes with multiple daily flights.

The spokesman added that the number of cancellations “represents a small proportion” of the total of 1,645 planned for Monday.

British Airways cancelled at least 115 flights to or from Heathrow Airport on Monday, although it s understood that only a handful were last-minute cancellations caused by coronavirus-related staff shortages.

The total includes many flights axed due to the airline’s recent decision to reduce its schedule until the end of May due to rising coronavirus cases.

It also suffered chaos on March 30 as flights were cancelled due to an IT meltdown.

The airline said: “Aviation has been one of the industries worst hit by the pandemic, and airlines and airports are experiencing the same issues rebuilding their operations while managing the continuing impact of Covid.”

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