Airlines warn disruption at UK airports set to continue through summer

Airlines fear disruption at UK airports will continue into the summer as the travel industry struggles to cope with rising passenger numbers and flight delays and cancellations pile up.

Airlines for Europe, Europe’s largest airline association, expects the problems plaguing the industry in the UK and Europe to persist “through much of the summer season”, according to a document. information consulted by the Financial Times.

The group, whose members include easyJet, British Airways owner IAG and Ryanair, blamed a combination of industry staff shortages, higher than normal sickness rates and long waits for new staff to come through. background checks.

The warning came as UK ministers criticized the travel industry for staff shortages that have caused weeks of disruption for air travellers, with pressure set to mount in the busiest week to fly since. of the pandemic, as the midterm school break coincides. with a two-day public holiday to commemorate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.

Lord Stephen Parkinson, the arts minister, said on Tuesday the government had “for many months” urged the aviation industry to ensure it had enough staff to allow passengers to travel smoothly this summer, as most coronavirus travel restrictions had been lifted across the UK and mainland Europe.

“We’ve been telling the industry for some time that they should have been prepared for this,” he told Sky News.

“It causes a lot of distress for people, especially in the mid-term, for people who have families and children with them. It’s very annoying if you show up at the airport and your flight isn’t ready.

Airlines, airports and ground handlers have laid off tens of thousands of staff as the pandemic hit their businesses and have come under mounting criticism for not rehiring people quickly enough this year. Hundreds of flights were canceled last week.

But some aviation leaders in the UK have argued they face two years of changes to travel restrictions with less financial support than some of their European competitors.

Airlines UK, an industry body, said the sector had only “weeks” to prepare this summer after travel restrictions were lifted in March, and the “vast majority” of flights would operate as planned .

The Airport Operators Association said companies had been recruiting for months, “but until restrictions were lifted, uncertainty about the future of travel made this difficult”.

Tui, the Anglo-German holiday company, said on Tuesday it had made the “incredibly difficult decision” to cancel 43 flights a week from Manchester Airport in June. The airport blamed staff shortages at Tui and ground manager Swissport.

Passengers traveling on easyJet have complained of chaotic scenes at Gatwick Airport over the weekend, including cancellations and delays. The low-cost airline canceled 24 flights a day between May 28 and June 6 in an attempt to avoid last-minute cancellations.

Nearly 19,000 flights are expected to take off from UK airports this week, the most since the pandemic began in spring 2020, according to data provider Cirium.

“Things could get worse this summer before they get better,” said Garry Graham, deputy general secretary of the Prospect union, which represents workers in the aviation industry, including air traffic control.

John Strickland, an aviation consultant, predicted a “long summer of discontent” and said the only solution was for airlines to cancel flights well in advance to inject more reliability into their operations.

“Staffing issues cannot be resolved quickly, and it is clear that the problems exist in many parts of the world. The operational performance of many airlines and airports will be inconsistent as the peak season unfolds,” he said.

Louise Haigh, Shadow Transport Secretary, said the Tory government was “missing” amid weeks of travel chaos.

“Tory ministers can’t even get the basics right. They should show responsibility, do their job and take concrete action to tackle the growing chaos under their watch,” she said.

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