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Wednesday, Jun 29, 2022

Flight cancellations: Airlines and airports unable to say when threat to summer holiday getaways will end

Flight cancellations: Airlines and airports unable to say when threat to summer holiday getaways will end

All five of the airlines contacted by Sky News failed to provide an answer after they were asked to say when customers would know for certain that no more cancellations would take place.

There appears to be no end in sight for the uncertainty facing air passengers worried about whether their flights from the UK will be cancelled this summer.

All the airlines contacted by Sky News were unable to give a date when no more flights would be cancelled ahead of the busy holiday period.

It comes after Heathrow asked airlines on Monday to cut 10% of flights at two terminals, while easyJet started cancelling thousands of summer flights.

Also on Monday, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary, talking about the cancellations in general, said the problem was going to continue right throughout the summer.

Sky News asked easyJet, BA, Tui, Wizz Air and Vueling, all of which have reported cancellations in the last few weeks, when it will be known that there will be no more cancellations.

None provided a clear answer to that question.

In addition, none of the airports where cancellations have occurred provided an answer to the same question, with most saying it was for airlines to comment.

This is despite Transport Secretary Grant Shapps telling travel bosses to "do their bit" to resolve the problems causing chaos at airports after meeting with airport chiefs as well as airlines earlier this month.

Tens of thousands of half-term holidaymakers were left stranded abroad due to flight cancellations during the half-term holidays at the end of May and start of June and there are fears that the scenes could be repeated during the summer break.

Some of the easyJet cancellations are believed to have come after Gatwick Airport announced it was limiting its number of daily flights to 825 in July and 850 in August to help passengers "experience a more reliable and better standard of service".

It is thought this could mean the cancellation of up to 10,000 of 160,000 easyJet flights on sale for July, August and September, although the airline's chief executive Johan Lundgren said on Monday the company had not decided how many cancellations there might be during those months.

Which airports are affected?


Most of the airports Sky News contacted said they were not expecting to see any cancellations.

Luton, Stansted, Edinburgh, Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Southampton airports all said they have not had to cancel flights or cap capacity over the summer.

But Gatwick confirmed what they reported last week, adding that its cap was designed to "to help prevent short notice and last-minute cancellations".

Heathrow said in addition to British Airways removing 10% of its summer schedule from the airport: "As a precautionary step (and in line with what other EU hub airports like Frankfurt and Amsterdam have also done), we have also worked with airlines in the last month to determine available capacity for check-in at various points throughout the day.

"We then engaged with airlines well in advance of these expectations to enable them to either re-time or consolidate their flights to ensure passenger check-in experiences were safe and to smooth the peaks on airline check-in staff."

What do the airlines say?


EasyJet, which on Tuesday evening still couldn't provide a figure on the number of cancellations, said impacted customers would be "notified directly in the coming days".

It said: "We continue to work through the flying programme to finalise the flights impacted. The vast majority of customers' flights will not be impacted and of those that are, the majority of customers will be rebooked within 24 hours. We will be notifying affected customers directly in the coming days with information on their alternative flight or the option to rebook or receive a refund."

A spokesperson added that while the majority of those who are impacted will be rebooked for free within 24 hours, any customers who are unable to transfer to another easyJet flight for free within 24 hours will be able to rebook with alternative carriers and will be reimbursed for this and any other reasonable expenses incurred as a result of their flight cancellation.

BA said that the vast majority of cancellations that have been reported are not new, but were pre-planned and actioned around a month and a half ago, and customers were notified at the time.

The company says it reduced its schedule by 10% (around 8,000 roundtrips) until the end of October as a result of resource challenges and around 85% of affected passengers have arrived at their destination within 24 hours of their original scheduled arrival.

A spokesperson added: "We've taken responsible pre-emptive action to amend our schedule in order to help provide more certainty for our customers, and are giving them maximum flexibility to either rebook with us or another airline as close to their original departure time as possible or to receive a full refund."

Tui said it planned to notify people as soon as possible if their flights are cancelled, adding: "While flight delays and cancellations with us are rare, unfortunately the increase in people going on holidays combined with complex operational and supply chain issues, meant that a very small number of TUI holidays were impacted over the first weekend of the May half term period.

"Our holidays rely on a complex system of services. This includes our own pilots and cabin crew, as well as operational partners that cover things like check-in, baggage and catering. Alongside that, we work closely with air traffic control and airport security teams. Our planes cannot take to the skies when these systems are not working together as they should be.

"This was an extraordinary situation and we took more than 230,000 people on holiday over the half term week. Our flights are now operating as usual and we are doing everything we can to ensure customers can look forward to enjoying their summer holidays as planned."

Wizz Air and Vueling had yet to comment by the point of publication.

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