LONDON, England: In order to prevent the repeat of May’s travel chaos, the UK government has told the nation’s airlines to eliminate flights they cannot staff this summer.
The move comes after tens of thousands of passengers were left to fend for themselves by cancellations and delays at British airports.
This week, the government and the UK aviation regulator wrote to carriers, instructing them to ensure their summer timetables were “deliverable,” and stressing that earlier cancellations were “better” than dropping flights at the last minute.
Travel disruptions during the Easter holiday, as well as during last month’s half-term school holiday, forced British Airways (BA), TUI and Easyjet to apologize for the difficulties travelers faced.
After thousands lost their airline jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have yet to be replaced despite a surge in post-pandemic travel demand, staff shortages have been blamed for the delays and flight cancellations in the UK.
In their joint letter, the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) set out five “specific expectations” for the sector.
They wrote, “We think it is important that each airline reviews afresh its plans for the remainder of the summer season until the end of September, to develop a schedule that is deliverable.
“Your schedules must be based on the resources you and your contractors expect to have available, and should be resilient for the unplanned and inevitable operational challenges that you will face.
“While cancellations at any time are a regrettable inconvenience to passengers, it is our view that cancellations at the earliest possibility to deliver a more robust schedule are better for consumers than late notice on-the-day cancellations.”
The letter also urged airlines, ground handlers, air traffic control and the Border Force to cooperate more closely.
Meanwhile, airlines and unions have told MPs on the Commons Business Committee that the staffing shortages affecting the industry will continue through the summer.
Oliver Richardson, national officer for civil air transport at the Unite union, told MPs that the situation would not be fixed “unless we work together.”
Meanwhile, Jude Winstanley, Head of Swissport, said the company has hired 3,000 people since the start of the year, but due to the referencing process, it was taking up to 90 days to get them full working passes.
According to the CAA, up to 4 percent of UK flights were cancelled during half term and the Platinum Jubilee weekend, up from the usual rate of 1 percent.